She’s only 5 years old, but Katrina Scannell of Fayetteville already has invasive brain surgery and two rounds of chemotherapy under her belt.
After learning Katrina and some of her family members were headed to Disney World, Universal Studios and Sea World thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, schoolmates at the Freeburg Primary Center on Monday sent her off on her journey with an all-school assembly that included a cheerleading routine and an appearance from a Disney princess.
Hints that Katrina was headed to Florida included a gift of a book full of pictures of Disney characters her classmates colored and an autograph book she can fill with the names of all the princes, princesses and other characters she meets.
Junior high cheerleaders performed a routine for Katrina, to the delight of over 200 other students who oohed and aahed during the aerial routine.
After doctors located a tumor on Katrina Scannell’s brain stem in 2012, surgeons removed almost all of it. But the tumor’s leftovers remain embedded too deeply in the 5-year-old’s brain stem to allow for another surgery. She’s in her second round of chemotherapy.
The junior high choir then sang “Let It Go” from the Disney movie Frozen. As a special treat, Elsa, a princess from the film dressed in a bright blue dress that matched one Katrina wore, danced while the choir and several of the students seated on the cafeteria floor sang the popular song.
Katrina’s mother Kim Theismann said it took a few doctors several months before physicians at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis found the tumor attached to Katrina’s brain stem in 2012. The tumor caused a wide range of symptoms that included physical, emotional and learning difficulties, Theismann said.
She’s a normal kid. If you looked at her, you’re not going to know there’s something there.
Kim Theismann, mother of Katrina Scannell
In May 2012, surgeons removed 95 percent of the tumor, but what’s left remains too deeply embedded in Katrina’s brain stem. More surgery was ruled out because it could paralyze her, so Katrina underwent a round of chemotherapy. Theismann said she’s currently in the midst of her second round of chemo.
“She’s very outgoing, sociable, very smart,” Theismann said of her daughter. “She’s a normal kid. If you looked at her, you’re not going to know there’s something there.”
Theismann said Katrina knows, at least in an abstract way, that she’s going on a trip. But when they arrive in Florida Wednesday?
“It’s going to be a shock, for both of us actually. I’ve never been there, so it’s a first time for me, too,” Theismann said. “It’s amazing, it really is. Make-A-Wish — I don’t even know how to start thanking them.”
Just a sweet little girl. Really, (Katrina’s) been a trooper through everything. The kids love her.
Freeburg District 70 Superintendent Tomi Diefenbach
Freeburg District 70 Superintendent Tomi Diefenbach described Katrina as “just a sweet little girl. Really, (Katrina’s) been a trooper through everything. The kids love her.”
Diefenbach said the support Katrina’s enjoyed from her schoolmates throughout her ordeal has helped more than just the kindergartener.
“It’s been great for (Katrina), and it’s been great for her family,” Diefenbach said. “This staff just came together; they literally put this (sendoff) together in three days.”
Katrina, her mom and a few other family members are headed to Florida Wednesday, and Theismann said she’s already got Katrina all packed.
“I got her all good to go. There’s nothing I could miss,” she said.