In a scorching hot room on the third floor of Woodcrest Hall in August 2001, Cristin Marcy met Jackie Freese. “A bubbly, curly-haired Jackie came over and introduced herself as my neighbor. I knew that she was someone that I was going to be friends with,” Marcy said. “She was the greatest person you could ever meet, no joke! Every great quality that you mention, that would describe Jackie.”
Marcy thinks this is how others should remember Jaclyn M. Freese, who passed away on Wednesday, March 8 of osteosarcoma, a very rare type of bone cancer. The 22- year-old was the 2003-2004 editor in chief of the Loquitur and a member of the class of 2005 at Cabrini.
Kristen Catalanotto, a senior English and communication major, worked with Freese on the Loquitur. “Jackie was my very first editor in chief, and she taught me a lot about being a good journalist. She was very willing to help me with a story and always gave me positive feedback about my skills as a reporter,” she said. The biggest thing she learned, however, was to stay positive. Catalanotto said, “I will forever remember her with long curly hair and a smile on her face.”
Jessica Marrella, a senior English and communication major, also worked as a staff writer under Freese. She said, “I will always remember how contagious Jackie’s happiness was. She was such a fun-loving person. You couldn’t be around her and not feel happy yourself,” Marella said.
Dr. Jerome Zurek, the head of the English and communication department, worked closely with Freese as her adviser. He said, “I saw her deal with hundreds of deadlines, and I never saw her flustered or panicky. She always knew how to handle tough situations. She kept her cool and made other people feel that they could overcome obstacles. It seems she was that way until the end.”
In April of 2004, while Freese was running on a treadmill, she experienced pain in her lower left leg. The pain continued and worsened through the end of the school year. In June of the same year, Freese turned 21, so she decided to wait until after her birthday to go to the doctor. In an earlier interview with Freese, she said, “That was the biggest mistake I made. I should have never waited that long.”
After an appointment with an orthopedic doctor, which showed everything to be fine, the pain still persisted. She decided to call the doctor again. This time, an MRI showed an abnormality in her leg. “When the doctor said it was cancer, I never thought I was going to die; I said ‘OK, what do I have to do to beat this?'” Freese said in her Up ’til Dawn benefit speech.
Last year, Freese was a speaker at the first annual Up ’til Dawn benefit dinner, held in April of 2005. “She stood proud in front of a crowded room speaking about her experiences about having cancer. I remember that she was funny and witty but also truthful. She talked about chemo being the worst thing to experience, but with the help of her family and friends, she was able to smile everyday,” Marcy said.
This was the day Rodney Stockett, the executive chef of the dining services at Cabrini College, met Freese. “I asked her, ‘How you doing?’ She said, ‘Well I ate today.’ She ate chicken salad on a croissant,” he said, “It struck me how we take things for granted. In all my conversations with her, I never heard her complain.” Stockett was speechless when he heard the news of Freese’s death. “And that doesn’t happen often,” he said.
Freese had to endure several low doses of chemotherapy treatments and high doses of radiation treatments throughout the duration of her illness. As she began to lose her hair, she decided to donate her hair to Locks-of-Love. “It’s hair; it will grow back,” she said.
Jana Fagotti, a close friend of Freese, recalled her recent attitude: “The past few months were very rough. After being re-diagnosed in August, Jackie endured three different kinds of chemo, none that helped her condition. It was almost exactly a month ago when I last had contact with Jackie, the day she was told she had no further options.”
Fagotti also said that Freese was supposed to participate in a new clinical trial that she never got the chance to take. “I remember our last conversation, which I feel incredibly fortunate to have had with her. I said, ‘Jackie, keep your spirit strong.’ She responded, ‘My spirit is strong, but I think it’s time for me to start accepting that my body is dying.’ My heart ached for her,” Fagotti said.
Whether the Cabrini community remembers Freese by her long curly hair, her beaming smile or her strong spirit, they will never forget the impact she had on the hearts of her teachers, students, family and friends.
Fagotti said, “Some people live their whole life trying to leave an imprint, a memory in the heart of someone so that they are never forgotten. Jackie made an impression in the heart of every person she came in contact with for 22 years. Her spirit will always inspire all of us.”
Posted to the web by Shane Evans