In consultation with her physicians at UCLA, Abby has decided to stop the clinical trial, which was causing a whole lot of suffering for her and a whole lot of not working on the cancer. We also recently learned that the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes in her chest, which is causing serious lung problems.
In this very hardest of times, the many ways that family and friends and neighbors have been helping are such blessings, and have come into sharp focus as what love and life are all about. The already-amazing husband who has grown into an even better partner, father, and caregiver. The parents who pick up their adored and adoring grandchildren at school and keep the house stocked with groceries and the doctors on their toes. The “food fairies” who drop off meals prepared with skill and love. The friends around the world – some of them flat broke – who nonetheless send money for housecleaning. The grandfathers – ages 95 and 96 – who provide all kinds of support from across the country. The brother who spends his weekends letting the nieces and nephews hit him with boppers and jump on him in the backyard trampoline. The high school classmates who organize fundraisers for breast cancer research. The old friends who fly in for some quality time. The locals who help with playdates. The list goes on and on.
Abby is not feeling up to much writing or visiting, but she is reading everything you send and appreciates the many memories, expressions of love, and healing wishes you have shared. (Note from her ferociously protective sister: she is too polite to tell you directly, but if you believe that she is at fault for her cancer or its progression in some way, keep it to yourself. I promise you it is not helpful.)
We will keep you posted on next steps in this journey as we know them. Also, this happened:
Meet Elsa Freeman Larsen. Because what’s the fun of having the toughest year of your life if you don’t get a puppy? She’s a foster dog for now, but is fast wriggling her way into everyone’s hearts and all the nooks and crannies in Abby’s backyard…
After celebrating Merlin’s 45th birthday and a family get-together for our Dad’s 70th, during which the only photo I managed to snap was this shot of Abby reading to the girlies, Abby entered a clinical trial at UCLA at the beginning of April. The study drug is a kinase inhibitor, combined with Cisplatin chemo.
Abby has been taking every possible moment to enjoy time with family and friends, hike, do yoga, and get her strength back before starting this next round of treatment, despite coping with rib pain and severe coughing, which seem to be after-effects of the radiation.
Thanks again to everyone for your emails, texts, Facebook shout-outs and help in SO many ways. With Abby likely to experience some rough side effects as the chemo treatment kicks in, we’re opening up another round of sign-ups for housecleaning support (best mental health intervention ever!).
Click here if you’re able to sponsor a session: Team Abby: Operation Sane Mom
Yours with love and in gratitude…
– Cynthia Freeman
Over the past year, since we first learned of Abby’s condition, much has changed. But one thing has not – her husband and life partner, Merlin Larsen. This challenge is difficult for all of us, Abby most of all, but he is the one that has most supported her through this trial, going on countless visits to doctors and hospitals, taking huge care of their children, working whenever he can to continue to support themselves financially, and more. He moved a 500 pound hot tub on his own over 100 feet and over uneven terrain from a neighbor’s house. He took Owen on a father-son trip to Joshua Tree. He taught himself welding and metal cutting and built a home workshop in order to start a business at home so that he could spend more time with Abby and the kids. He has dealt with my hovering, ever present family with the utmost patience and goodwill.
Abby could not have chosen a better dude. He is the rock in her life, and we are lucky to call him our brother, son-in-law, and friend. Thank you, Merlin, today on your 45th birthday, and for what we all hope will be many more years together.
The two lovers spent last weekend healing at the Esalen Institute. They sent us this selfie from Morro Bay.
“Oh, I just taught myself how to cut metal so I could make this for you. No big deal.”
S’mores in Joshua Tree
– Dan Freeman
Abby is out of the OR and recovering quickly! After a four-hour surgery yesterday, she had a calm night and is up today and walking, eating regular (well, hospital) food, and reading the scores of wonderful text messages, Facebook posts, and blog comments you all sent. Thank you so much for the love and support!
She will come home tomorrow, and she and Merlin are having “dinner and a movie” at the hospital this evening – with two kids, you gotta take those date night opportunities whenever you can!
Meanwhile, back at the house…
Surgery is tomorrow. Fingers and toes are crossed.
The dome is growing some fuzz – a good sign of cute hairstyles to come.
Merlin just sent me this photo of his hot wife. Oh yeah!
The best thing about being nearby while Abby is going through this is that I get to see her – and when you see her you remember that she’s incredibly healthy, and fit, and vital, and funny, and all that…even though there’s this really sucky cancer that’s come to visit uninvited. Begone you, malignancy!
Thanks for all the check-in emails, texts, and gentle reminders to update the d*mn blog already. Abby is finally seeing the end in sight for chemo: five rounds down, three to go, with the last infusion scheduled for October 10th. After that a few weeks of recovery and then it will be time for fun with surgery…but hey, no more barfing! Yes!
As you may recall, Abby started a new type of chemo last week, and while of course being bombarded with poisonous chemicals is never exactly a picnic, we are glad to report that at least the side effects of this new infusion were no worse than the previous one. Within a few days she was up and back at work, hanging with the kiddos and the rest of the family, and even held down the fort with a dear friend’s help so Merlin could make a quick trip to New York to do technical and aerial design for the new Julie Taymor Midsummer Night’s Dream show (woo hoo!).
Family snap from this past weekend at my folks’ above – Abby is rocking the fedora (although with 100 degree heat in LA these days, it’s a good time to be bald). Owen, meanwhile, was cleverly making a play for the iPad while the rest of us were distracted…and then Julia decided to do a little escape of her own:
A shot from last weekend’s trip to Sequoia, which Abby and her family took with Merlin’s sister Gwyn and her fiance Bill. Not pictured: the newest addition to the family, Hammy the Hamster, who came along in – wait for it – a luxury RV I mean travel cage. Owen and Merlin have been very busy creating habitats and other delights for the new guy…er, rodent.
In news of The Cancer, there’s some good stuff and some not-as-good stuff. The highlight: after months of delays at the labs due to the “Angelina Effect,” the genetic testing came back and Abby is negative for BRCA 1 and 2. Woo hoo! Also, the first three rounds of chemo did stop the tumors from growing any larger. Unfortunately, a recent ultrasound clarified that they have also not gotten any smaller (so much for the happy oncologist). This means a change in plan: after the fourth round of the current chemo drugs tomorrow, Abby will switch to a different concoction for the remainder of treatment. Good times! The new drug regimen will have four rounds, two weeks apart. It will suck more but be over more quickly, in other words. After that Abby is done with chemo and it’s on to fun stuff like surgery and radiation (but hey, no barfing! Grateful for small blessings).
Abs is ready. Josh is cranking up production at the matzoh ball soup sweatshop. My parents are getting serious quality time (not to mention occasional visits to waterslides) with Owen and Julia. And the many, many friends, neighbors and relatives who have been helping from near and from far just ROCK. We appreciate you so much!
While Mommy is laid up after chemo treatments, the cousins have been playing a lot. They hug each other just like this when they see each other!
And the grown-ups have been getting creative with planning excursions. This Sunday, at the suggestion of my father-in-law Jerry Goldstein, we caravanned down to San Pedro with all the kids, four grandparents, and some friends with their kids. The older kids toured the USS Iowa battleship (very cool, you can see a bit of it in the background in this picture) with assorted parents and grandparents. The under-3 set hit the tiny but captivating Cabrillo Aquarium to gawp at the sea life. We all met on the beach for a picnic afterwards and celebrated my mom’s birthday. Bet I know what she wished for!
We’re appreciating each other more these days, I think. And treasuring the silver linings – like even more time with these munchkins.
Wahoo! First round of chemo is already shrinking the tumor! The oncologist is happy (a phrase I’m hoping devoutly to repeat throughout this journey). And Abby has now been upgraded to the truly superior anti-nausea meds, just in time for her second round this Friday. She had a lot of energy back by last week and was able to work, hike, do some yoga, and of course bounce on the trampoline with the munchkins. Also this week: family shearing session, the kids and Merlin got in on the act, which ended up being fun rather than depressing. Abs looks fierce and very cool with her head shaved – GI Jane meets 1980s East Village punk – and is feeling good. Keep your fingers crossed that the next round of chemo goes as smoothly. Oh, and don’t be surprised if Abby is transformed by this experience…into a brunette!