Lisa Freeman Brain Tumor
Organized by: Katrina Kenison
Please help our friend Lisa Freeman, as she continues treatment for a brain tumor.
On a bright Saturday morning in July, our beloved friend and kindergarten teacher Lisa Freeman felt her legs giving way beneath her. In her head was a sudden sound of rushing water, a sense of pressure building in her ears, the feeling of short circuits firing across her brow.
Lisa's son Brendan got her in a car and drove her to the hospital, a few miles away. Within hours, she found herself being transported by ambulance from Peterborough to Boston. There, what had begun several days earlier as odd, intermittent headaches was quickly diagnosed: a large, inoperable brain tumor crossing both her frontal lobes. A biopsy confirmed the worst – Lisa’s tumor was malignant, a glioblastoma.
Not surprisingly to all who know her, Lisa has accepted the mounting challenges posed by her illness with remarkable courage, grace, and faith. On the morning the hair around her forehead began to fall out from the radiation, she simply said, “Well, I guess I better figure out how I’m going react to this before I have to react to it.” That day, on the way back from treatment, she stopped in and made an appointment with her hairdresser.
A month later, Lisa marked the end of six weeks of daily radiation treatments by bringing a tray of cookies to the staff that had been so kind to her all through August and September. She has made friends with a wheelchair, reluctantly, for the bad moments. And, at the same time, when her legs are steady, she savors every step of a walk up the hill by her house, taking joy in autumn’s glorious display.
Now, after a brief break from chemo, Lisa and Kerby have the results of her first MRI, which suggest the treatment is having a positive effect. Steroids, carefully monitored, are relieving some of the pressure and swelling in the brain – although not without side effects. Lisa’s oncology team at Dana Farber is hopeful that with continued chemotherapy, the growth of this particularly aggressive tumor can be slowed and that there will be better days ahead. But they can’t really tell her what to expect, acknowledging that they are in unknowable, unpredictable territory. Life with a brain tumor is, above all perhaps, a challenging course in learning how to hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
Just four short months ago, Lisa was concluding a wonderful 14 years of teaching at Pine Hill and eagerly anticipating the challenges of beginning a new job this fall at the Monadnock Waldorf school. Instead, for the first time in over 30 years, she finds herself with no lessons to prepare, no children eagerly gathered around for story time, no parents awaiting her reports on life in kindergarten. Meanwhile, Kerby is juggling the demands of a full-time teaching schedule and care for Lisa.
There is no getting around the fact that this diagnosis abruptly and irrevocably changed every aspect of their busy, healthy, productive lives.
In the meantime, two things have become clear:
1. Cancer doesn’t just impact one person’s physical health, it ripples outward, affecting the lives of family members and loved ones, undoing the structures that hold a life together, unraveling plans for the future, and creating a mounting burden of stress, both emotional and financial.
2. People want to help.
Hence this website. Over the last couple of months, many people have asked how they might ease the burden of day-to-day life for Lisa and Kerby as they manage this new reality. Now, as the impact of Lisa’s illness sinks in, so has the need for financial assistance.
In June, they were two hard-working teachers earning extra income by running a summer camp (Lisa) and doing an annual summer building project (Kerby ). With careful management, they were living within their budget. Four months and one brain tumor later, and with Kerby’s project derailed by Lisa’s illness, they find themselves facing rising costs, with highly reduced income.
Lisa’s treatment at Dana Farber is covered by Kerby’s insurance, although every weekly blood test and doctor visit requires a co-pay. However, there are many medical bills that aren’t covered. Renowned for their integrated health care approach, Lisa’s doctors at Dana Farber have advised her to continue with chemotherapy for the foreseeable future, and to supplement her treatment with additional care to support her immune system. Lisa plans on working with specialists in such care, in concert with her oncologist. This care includes regular appointments to monitor her progress, nutritional counseling, vitamins and supplements, massage, and other methods for supporting the immune system – additional costs that are not covered by insurance.
In her many years of teaching kindergarten, giving riding lessons, and running her popular summer camp, Lisa has touched the lives of literally hundreds of children and adults. My own sons, now 22 and 25, look back on their kindergarten years with Lisa as the most magical time of their lives. Once, many years later, as a moody teenager, Jack said, “I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever be as happy again as I was in kindergarten.”
Now each of us has an opportunity to give something back to help this special friend who has given so much of herself to so many over the years. Every dollar given here will ease this difficult journey for Lisa and Kerby, helping them pay the expenses associated with Lisa’s illness, and relieve some of the enormous stress of their situation so they can enjoy the most precious gift of all – time just to be together.
Considering the duration of this hardship, we’ve set a goal of $65,000, which would allow Kerby and Lisa to pay some overdue bills, meet ongoing expenses, continue Lisa’s integrated care and provide some much needed financial security in the months to come.
Thank you so much for sharing this path with Lisa and Kerby, and for any help you are able to give.
Finally – please pass this link on to anyone you know who knows Lisa or Kerby. Share it via email, on Facebook, and on any other social media you use. May the ripples of friendship, love, and community extend even beyond our wildest imagining.