Kriseya’s courage


Destin Middle School student Kriseya Wheeler has been battling a brain tumor for about a year and a half. Now the 12-year-old is fighting a new health scare as cancerous cells are spreading into her cerebrospinal fluid.

ABRAHAM GALVAN @destinlogabe

DESTIN — For two years Kriseya Wheeler has been fighting a brain tumor — and now she faces a new heath scare.

In January 2015, Kriseya began several operations and chemotherapy that forced her to pull out of Destin Middle School and be home-schooled.

Her chemo treatments ended in May 2016 after the tumor had been reduced to nearly a third of its original size. The improvement allowed Kriseya to return to school and finish her fifth-grade year, according to Jeniffer Wheeler, Kriseya’s mother.

Kriseya still received an MRI every three months to monitor the tumor. Everything seemed fine until her scan in June.

“They said that her benign tumor is acting aggressively,” Jeniffer said.

According to Jeniffer, the tumor had begun creating cells that could cause meningitis, a potentially fatal swelling of the membranes around the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis can also cause seizures and cognitive and motor impairment.

Due to the rareness of Kriseya’s affliction, the family will have to travel to either Boston Children’s Hospital in Massachusetts or UAB Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama. They are waiting to hear back from the hospitals to learn about prognosis and treatment options.

Jeniffer said she was encouraged by one correspondence from a Children’s Hospital doctor.

“The words ‘treatment plan’ lightens my heart a bit,” Jeniffer wrote on a Facebook page that provides updates on Kriseya’s condition.

The family planned to drive to Birmingham to speak with a specialist on Wednesday, but the family prefers to be accepted by Boston Children’s Hospital.

Meanwhile, Kriseya is just like any other 12-year-old, trying to make the most of her summer.

She created a list of fun activities she wanted to do over the summer: snorkeling, parasailing and riding on a personal watercraft, among others. The family calls it her “Phineas and Ferb” list, named after the popular animated series from Disney, because calling it a bucket list would be too negative.

“We want her to get to do everything she wants and enjoy being a kid despite the scary news she just learned,” Jeniffer said.

Kriseya said she is looking forward to the upcoming school year.

“I really want to join the tennis team and continue in the Junior Honor Society,” she said.

But it’s up to the specialists to decide whether Kriseya can attend Destin Middle School as a sixth grader once school starts Aug. 10.

“This is very scary and we are doing our best to stay positive,” said Chris Wheeler, Kriseya’s father. “We are taking advantage of every opportunity that we have together.”

Kriseya said the entire experience has been extremely difficult, but she tries to see it more like an adventure.

“We get to travel to new and familiar places together as a family and learn many new things,” she said. “I try to make the best of it.

“It’s like a roller coaster.”