Residents of Mulvane decorated Main Street with ribbons and signs in orange the color of leukemia awareness to welcome Taylor Heersche home around 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Doctors at Childrens Mercy Hospital in Kansas City told the 15-year-olds family she had only a few more days to live. The parade was supposed to be Taylors last homecoming and final farewell to a town that rallied to support her four-year fight to beat leukemia.
But instead of the parade, Mulvane residents gathered for a candlelight vigil late Tuesday to honor the teen, who died hours before she was to return to home.
DeAnne Heersche said Tuesday her daughter a bubbly, funny, outgoing teen who loved music, theater and her dog, Kaiser had a knack for uniting her friends and the community.
Ill bet every parent says that their kid was special. But she was a real people person. There were no strangers, she said.
That kind of kid leaves a huge hole not only in our family, but in the community. Were all going to miss her horribly.
Crisis counselors will be available to talk to students, faculty and staff throughout the week at Mulvane High School, district spokesman Tom Keil said.
Taylor, a sophomore at Mulvane High School, was diagnosed with the leukemia in May 2008. She was 10.
DeAnne Heersche said Taylor told her, I can live with leukemia.
And I said, Well, you can live with leukemia, so can we, DeAnne Heersche said. And she lived with leukemia. She was a fireball.
On Dec. 29, 2011 after treatment, chemotherapy and eight cancer-free months doctors announced the disease was back. This time, DeAnne Heersche said, it was a genetic mutation that could not be cured by chemo.
This last three months at Childrens Mercy was one setback after another, she said. Taylor got shingles. A fungus grew in her lungs. A virus attacked her bladder.
She was fighting too many things. We just couldnt get her healthy.
At 5:30 a.m. Tuesday, Taylors body started shutting down. By 8, she was in heaven, DeAnne Heersche said.
Taylor is survived by her parents Dan and DeAnne Heersche; 12-year-old sister, Connor; grandmother Millie Hastings; grandfather George Heersche; and several members of her extended family.
Services are at 4 p.m. Sunday at Central Community Church, 6100 W. Maple in Wichita. Those attending are asked to wear a Taylors Gang T-shirt or another orange top with jeans.
She will be buried Monday in Mulvanes Littleton Cemetery during a private ceremony.
Smith Mortuaries in Derby and Mulvane are handling arrangements.
The family is asking contributions be made to several funds in lieu of sending flowers: the Taylor Heersche Cancer Fund at Carson Bank locations in Mulvane, Derby and Wichita; the Mulvane High School Thespians Club, the Mulvane Lyons/Leos Club, the Mulvane United Methodist Church, and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in Wichita.