Krisanna’s Story

       "Have a bright sunshiny yellow day!"

                                Krisanna Roberts

On May 26, 2009, 14 year old Krisanna celebrated graduation:  an MRI showed that the tumor bed remained stable following a 2004 gamma knife procedure on her third brain tumor, so she graduated to annual check-ups at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. 


Merely two weeks later, an MRI revealed that a tumor at the base of her spine was the source of pain she had been experiencing for a month as sixth grade wound down and the promise of summer beckoned.  She returned to Memphis for the summer.


For eleven years Krisanna Roberts battled an aggressive brain tumor called an Atypical Teratoid Rhabdoid Tumor.  She was St. Jude’s longest surviving AT/RT patient. The tumor first presented in the brain and returned twice following initial occurrence and treatment.  The fourth occurrence was the first time the tumor had presented in the spine.


Krisanna’s spirit and determination soared as she began what she called her “summer vacation at her home away from home” at Target House.  Arts and crafts was the name of the game ... and assigning each day a color unveiled the infinite spectrum of yellow for this pink and purple-loving princess.  In August, she returned home to Mobile, Alabama with big plans for seventh grade. 

On Septermber 1, Krisanna's spine scan showed that radiation had not reduced the tumor.  Hoping that long-term effects would reduce the size, Krisanna returned to school.  However, by the 3rd week of September, daily headaches, nausea, and emesis limited her activities.  By mid-October, she was in constant pain, eating little, and often dehydrated which home hospital visits helped only minimally.  We returned to St. Jude October 26 for a brain scan.

Shockingly, the scan revealed that the tumor had returned with a vengeance.  It covered her brain, and there were no medical options left.  Krisanna, however, didn't give up. She still had a lot of living to do!  With her Pollyanna spirit, she made big plans and celebrated every single day -- even the last in her hospital bed. She died in her "home away from home" on November 4, 2009.

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“Into all our lives, in many simple, familiar, homely ways, God infuses this element of joy from the surprises of life ....

“Into all our lives, in many simple, familiar, homely ways, God infuses this element of joy from the surprises of life which unexpectedly brighten our days and fill our eyes with light.”  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

You know how a smell or a breeze or the sun shining through the sky in just a certain way can zap you back to moments or places from your past?  You try to put your finger on just what drew you down Memory Lane ~ usually to no avail ~ and you marvel at the happy feeling a sensory memory creates. 

I enjoyed several of those moments recently.

You know how sometimes you have one of those days …  and you don’t get to come up for air? Then ~ Snap! ~ unexpectedly someone calls who puts a smile on your face or you see something that makes you feel the hug of a loved one.

I’ve relished several of those moments in recent weeks. 

February is always a long month. I often think of it as gray, but this year we had quite a few bright sunshiny days.  They fed my spirit when, inside the brick and mortar parts of my life, the fluorescent lights felt so faux.  [I know, I know ... but it was fun to write!]

I miss my girl.  Yes, even five years later, I miss my girl.  Yet she sends me so many simple yellow signs reminding me to celebrate each day!

Last week as I walked behind the auditorium on a bitter cold day, I spied a lone yellow skittle. Zap! I chuckled as I pocketed it, picturing her dividing her skittles into colors long before yellow was her signature. “Hey Baby!”  

The campus bus that drives by the university’s Visual Art Complex is the Yellow line. I know - really? No matter how early or late I am, it always drives by just as I head in to teach class. Zap!  I smile as I relive nights when Mark picked her up from me in the Spring Hill College parking lot. She always gave me at least three tight, squeezy hugs before she got in his car. “Hi Momu!” 

As I entered a super-busy stretch of events in Ye Olde Arts Centre, I felt the pull of spiraling anxiety. So I turned to Moms in Prayer – and an incredible peace guided my days. When I realized it ~ Snap!  Images flickered through my head when Krisanna would rub my shoulder and say, "Breathe, Momu. Just breathe."  (:~D  I miss those one-handed shoulder rubs.

People point to their yellow shirts or slightly lift a yellow tie, smile and nod – and for the moment she is there with us. “Terrific! How are you?”

A group of UMS-Wright students went on a mission trip to Guatemala during Mardi Gras break. Adelaide sent the photo in this post with Carly and Eugenia all wearing their KER yellow week shirts. They didn't plan it ~ clearly Krisanna wanted to be in Guatemala with her cousin and her friends. "Hey Everybody!"

When we began rehearsals, one of the children brought me a portrait he made for me.  In it, I’m wearing a yellow shirt ~ “for Krisanna” he said.  

Yellow flowers appear on my desk, yellow sightings from siblings and friends arrive in my email, yellow cards and notes grace my mailbox, yellow prayers offered fill me with peace, yellow hugs shared warm my heart. Simple joys that brighten days.

In the waning hours of a long day in a seemingly-eternal week, I pulled alongside my mailbox to discover a grand surprise:  a card which read, “The weatherman said that today was a good day to send sunshine to somebody you love.”  The inside was filled with smiling bright yellow suns shining on a field of fun flowers. Yep ~ but that’s not really the best part. Curious, I glanced at the postmark and smiled because Krisanna’s friend Melissa mailed it two days prior ~ my lowest day in such a very long time. Midday I sat in Krisanna's Garden and asked her and Mr. God to help me breathe.  How cool is it that Melissa sent the card that very day?  

Sunday, in a restaurant, St. Jude angel Andre’s mom tentatively waved at me and asked, “Aren’t you Krisanna’s mom?”  She wasn’t sure but the yellow I wore was a clue. (:~D “When does this feeling go away?” she asked. I answered honestly. We chatted. I told her Krisanna would graduate this year; she said Andre would have graduated last year. “I keep hoping that after graduation, I’ll feel like I’ve sent her off to college,” I admitted. It was her turn to answer honestly. We hugged and laughed that Krisanna and Andre were clapping and dancing that we were hugging each other.  What a bright yellow treat! 

Today is another 4th … another marker in that long “day that is like a thousand years” … another day that I miss my girl.  Today, however, has been yellow all day long!  When I opened my email, my sister sent me this photo of Krisanna from pre-tumor days, and Jeff wrote with exciting updates about the Yellow Day movie. In rehearsal, as I tied a little one’s shoe, I told her I liked her yellow tennis shoes. Immediately another young cast member said, “It’s ‘cause of Krisanna” with a smile on her face and lilt in her voice.  How awesome that a young person who never knew Krisanna associates her with yellow and happiness so freely!  Krisanna's cousin Moira brought home her #4 AAU basketball jersey  - "#4 for Krisanna."  Finally, I arrived home to a package from Krisanna’s friend Wiley. Eagerly I opened the envelope to find a small Daymaker collection of quotes and scriptures. Yellow with bright pink and pale purple cover and pages, it has “Smile” written all over it.  Each page inspires with thoughts like Paul Vitale’s “Get lost in the clouds every now and then so you never lose sight of God’s wonder” and “A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.” (I’m pretty sure “detour” is the human way of saying “not the part of Mr. God’s plan I expected.") 

Everyday I am grateful for the blessings of simple joys in the bright yellow scenery on this detour – and the many people who enjoy it with me. 

Wishing Quinlan and Aunt Ginny yellow new years, Crazy Uncle Brady and Aunt Laurel a sunshiny anniversary, and most especially wishing everyone a bright yellow day filled with zaps, snaps, and simple joys.


19 people hearted this



Christine Stouffer
By Christine
I am glad for your posts. I feel your pain, and joy as you write. Clearly, we all miss Krisanna. But your writings give us hope. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. My prayers are with you.
1 person hearted this
Stephanie Rogers
By Stephanie Rogers
I love you.
1 person hearted this
Calente Tapp
By Calente Tapp
Loved reading your post. I think of you often. Praying for you !!
2 people hearted this
Laura Barnett
By Laura Barnett
She will be with us again this year on our run!!! Thoughts, prayers and love your way love L
2 people hearted this
Karen Kuers
By Aunt Karen K
Every one of my days begins with warm thoughts of you and Krisanna! Thanks for sharing your smiles and hugs...and reminding us all to be aware of the zaps, snaps, and simple joys that sometimes get lost in a busy day....
Sending lots of love for many bright sunshiny yellow March days ;-) The green tops of my "Krisanna-dils" are peaking above the snow in their garden patch around St. Francis...reminding me to anticipate the arrival of their wonderful yellow smiles.
1 person hearted this
Rick and Denise Townsend
By Rick and Denise Townsend
Sending you warm yellow hugs, and letting you know that I still enjoy reading your updates. Riley is doing great, we are so blessed to still have her with us. Take care Laura.
1 person hearted this
Anne Smith
By Anne Smith
Thanks for brightening my day!
Every morning I send you a hug 😍
1 person hearted this
Melissa McNichol
By Melissa McNichol
Thank you. You are loved!
1 person hearted this
Pat Johnson
By Pat Johnson
I love your posts so much!!! They help me get through my days!! You are a blessing to so many! Your words speak of love, hope and our loving Father and they bless so many! God is good, He is our Hope and our Salvation! Love you Laura!!
1 person hearted this
shannon beisel
By shannon beisel
WOWOWOW! Love starting my day with a YELLOW bang!!
May we all look at daily detours in this new light!
Love and Prayers from Nashville 😘😘😘
1 person hearted this