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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.

Latest Journal Update

"They live in you ..."

Class of 2015 with Krisanna's blazer on the bottom left chair

Class of 2015 with Krisanna's blazer on the bottom left chair

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For a week I was Mom again.  It. Was. A-W-E-some.

Krisanna’s Class of 2015 graduation week was such fun – and they included her in a big way!  The girls carried gorgeous yellow bouquets, her blazer graced a seat with the class, I got to deliver the commencement address, and throughout the Grad Night celebration following, no one was afraid to mention her name or share a story with a big smile and a hug. She flitted around all night long having a blast. (I added photos.)

Then Krisanna visited NYC. Well, we sisters celebrated Aunt Kelly’s birthday – and we saw Lion King!  Okay – I didn’t just see Lion King. I was totally mesmerized - transported by the magic of Pride Land. I laughed, I cried, I marveled, I cried some more, I wondered. AND she was right there next to me.  No, seriously, my sister randomly distributed our tickets, and when the show started, no one was in the seat next to me – seat #15

One scene that always grabs my heart is when Mufasa says to Simba, “Look at the stars. The great kings of the past look down at us from those stars.  […] So whenever you feel alone, just remember that those kings will always be there to guide you. And so will I.” (They stare at the stars in silence dwarfed by the infinity that surrounds them.) In the play, the gorgeous song “They Live in You” follows that dialogue. Brand new to me, in Act 1 the song richly resonates throughout Pride Land; then in Act 2, younger Simba sings it as a grand celebration of the circle of life. Absolutely stunning.

Not only does the scene powerfully capture the play’s message, it immediately brought to mind a scene from another of Krisanna’s favorite movies, Don’t Eat the Pictures: Sesame Street at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In that film she first encountered the ancient Egyptian belief that when a person dies, his soul becomes a star in the sky.  I had just visited the Temple of Dendur at the Metropolitan Museum – the setting for that movie scene!  The entire time I was at the exhibit I heard Krisanna singing songs from the movie. To go from that exhibit and memory to the Lion King performance ….. wow - amazing presence of my girl!

(Did I mention, the Lion King marquee and all production materials are golden yellow?)

Many people know the significance of the Lion King story in the Krisanna Roberts story – and how it connects to 4th of July.  At six months pregnant and Mark and I headed to the movie theater on a hot, muggy July 4th in 1994 to see the new movie about a lion family that featured Elton John music.  During the stampede, Krisanna started kicking furiously!  She was not at all happy about that event even before she walked the earth! :-) We knew then she was a spirited, determined girlie girl.

I’ve long believed in the brilliance of the stars as Vincent van Gogh did - reflections of “Infinity on high.”  I also liked a quote on an angel statue given to me after Krisanna died: Perhaps they are not stars in the sky, but rather openings where our loved ones shine down to let us know they are happy. I miss my girl, but there is nothing like looking into a starry sky and hearing her say, "Terrific! How are you?"  Now I also hear the soaring voices from the powerful Broadway production assuring me:

Wait ~ There's no mountain too great

Hear these words and have faith. 

They live in you; they live in me.

They're watching over everything we see.

In every creature, in every star ~ 

They live in you. 

On this 4th of July, 21 years after Krisanna first “experienced” Lion King, I honor the circle of life. I think of Josh, Sean, Nicholas, Chesley, and the Tribe Eternal. I remember fun with Mikey and Tammy. I sing praises of the St. Jude's miracle-workers. I wish happy birthday to Krisanna’s Krewe, Tic Tac Toe King, Ad, Dominic, DIV, Unca Mick, and Aunt Beth. 

I thank all those who protected and continue to protect our freedom. 

Finally, I trust that Krisanna’s friends and classmates will fare well on their journeys – and when the mountain seems too great, they will see her example of fighting hard and being strong in bright yellow sunshiny days and golden starry nights – but mostly in themselves because, as the Lion Kings remind us, she lives in them!

Happy 4th with the traditional nod to Uncle Pete: Many who had a fifth on the Fourth failed to come forth on the fifth. [7-5-1955]


16 people hearted this



Mollie Bell
By Mollie Bell
Missing my Dollface at the bay! Before we left I went in the attic to get some of our chairs and there was the little pink princess chair lounger! I couldn't believe it was still up there. Big David normally gets the stuff down. I smiled and laughed and then cried! I can still see her in 95 degree weather with that long red wig and glasses on pulling Ad and Day in the wagon down to the wharf! I know she was with you in NY! I know that girl wouldn't have missed a trip to the big Apple! I'm sure if at any point she was missing I know where she was! 5th and 49th! :) Love this post! Such a great visual memory! Love you!
1 person hearted this
Kelly Darling
What a great time in NYC and even more so when she gets to be with us. Who knew that when I passed out those tickets, #15 would be next to you for that sweet, precious girl.......errr, I guess she had plans. :-) I loved witnessing the circle of life live with you both. xoxo, Aunt Kelly
1 person hearted this
Brady Wilson
By Brady Wilson
The most precious, sweetest, bravest, toughest, best attitude, inspiring baby angel girl.

A circle of life, or what?!

Love from CUB / L / L / C
1 person hearted this
Shannon Cox
By Shannon Thomas Cox
WOW! Beautiful words and a perfect analogy of how your beautiful little girl is always present and will forever be with us on this journey of life! Loved her MUCH and you as well! Would LOVE to see you soon! Please come to Nashville for a visit! Love and Hugs!
1 person hearted this
Anne Smith
By Anne Smith
The love and joy Krisanna brought into our lives will never diminish. She lives forever in our hearts and in every atom that makes up our universe. I can always feel her all around us, smiling and laughing in her special way!
1 person hearted this
Meridy Jones
By Meridy Jones
What a wonderfully TERRIFIC way to start the day! By the way, Krisanna is very proud of her mom. That ray of sunshine is in every star, every turtle, every hint of yellow, and even every half-eaten sandwich--the circle of memories and life.
1 person hearted this
mick beisel
By Mick Beisel
Happy 4th Krisanna!
All the stars were out last night and yours was the brightest.
Love You!
Unca Mick
1 person hearted this
Stephanie Rogers
By Stephanie Rogers
No words. Only love. So so much love.
1 person hearted this
Colette Herring-Compton
By Colette — last edited
Love your posts. Love you. Love Krisanna. <3
2 people hearted this