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    Real World: San Diego's Frankie Dies

    Sometimes the world can be all too cruelly real.

    Frankie Abernathy, a cast member on The Real World: San Diego in 2004, died Saturday night at her mother's Shorewood, Wisconsin, home.

    An official cause of death is yet to be determined, but the 25-year-old had suffered from cystic fibrosis, a hereditary disease that causes a buildup of mucus in the lungs and pancreas and inhibits the body's ability to move water and salt in and out of cells.

    Abernathy was diagnosed with her illness when she was three and discussed it openly during her stint on the Real World's 14th season, in which she and six others lived in a tricked-out converted restaurant and pulled duty as tour guides for a company that organized cruises around San Diego Bay.

    "It was very sudden," Abernathy's mother, Abbie Hunter, told MTV News. "It wasn't something that was expected. She was doing fine, and we really don't know very much yet.

    "It was still kind of a shock, and it just wasn't how we figured things would go. It seems like her little body just gave out."

    Watching The Real World that season, the petite redhead appeared as physically healthy as her roommates, although her emotional fights with boyfriend Dave, as well as various other problems with the house—at one point she purposely cut herself with a kitchen knife—led to an early exit from the show.

    Abernathy received letters from people touched by both her struggle with cystic fibrosis and the cutting incident, sympathizing and praising her for her strength and the way she appeared to embrace life as it happens.

    "Tomorrow is a privilege, so live today like tomorrow isn't happening," Abernathy said at one point during the season.

    "Her experience on The Real World taught her about what she needed to do, and it helped other people as well," Hunter told MTV News. "I know several people weren't aware of the cutting epidemic at the time and I know several people wrote Frankie and thanked her. She was a different person for The Real World realm, and I think she touched a lot of people and made an impact on a lot of lives."

    Hunter said that Abernathy, who worked in a sex shop before her reality-TV debut, moved to Wisconsin last fall and had been designing purses made out of old records.

    "It was a day-by-day thing. Some days she felt good and some days she felt bad," Hunter said. "We were kind of hoping to get her to see if she would qualify for a lung transplant, because the disease got progressively worse. In the winter, most people [suffering from cystic fibrosis] usually have a rough patch, and she had a rough patch this year."

    In addition to her her mom, Abernathy is survived by her father Joe Abernathy, who lives in Texas; her stepfather Perry and her sister Marnie.

    Hunter says that a scholarship has been set up in her daughter's name at Blue Springs High School in Missouri, Abernathy's alma mater.

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