Senior prom, high school exit exams, Relay for Life, graduation ceremonies. This is the whirlwind life of 17-year-old Breanna Pflaumer and a lot of other teens in Moorpark. The difference is that Breanna is struggling with a brain tumor and has been locked in that battle for nearly all of her high school years.
Diagnosed with cancer in December 2005 (See “The Face of Courage”, Feature, 12/20/07), Breanna has beaten the odds and still dazzles the medical community, which gave her merely weeks to live back in those dark days of early diagnosis. Breanna is determined to graduate with her class and now has just weeks to go in order to accomplish what had been deemed impossible.
But, first, the dream of going to her Senior Prom came true. She has given a lot of thought to the anticipated event, a wonderful distraction from the work of finishing high school on schedule.
“I started planning for the prom from about as long ago as I can remember,” Breanna said. “Probably since the beginning of high school. It’s turning out to be what I thought it would be.”
And the best part of going to a formal dance is getting the dress. It has to be perfect. Being smaller than other teens her age, Breanna couldn’t just go to the usual stores. But that was no problem.
“Me and my mom went looking where I got my homecoming dress and found this one,” Breanna said. “Pink is my favorite color, and I just fell in love with it when I saw it.”
The gown was nearly strapless with a simple matching pink shrug. The dress was full length with pink cascades of satiny billows punctuated by pink woven rosebuds. Seeing her slight and fragile frame in the princess perfect silhouette, Breanna appeared to be straight out of a fairy tale. Her smile beamed broadly as she displayed the delicate pink rosebud corsage on her wrist. Her hair was swept up in the popular sophisticated style with curls carefully spilling down the back. Her makeup was restrained, and she was ready to soak in the moment of actually being at her senior prom.
The prom was held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library perched on a promontory in Simi Valley. The Air Force One hangar was transformed into a dinner and dancing venue, easily navigated by the 500 prom attendees. The night was hot and the walk out to the hangar was long. But Breanna traveled the distance on her own, with just some moral support from her sister, Shannon, who was Breanna’s escort for the evening.
Shannon, 21, a student at University of California, Los Angeles, experienced a bit of déjà vu because her prom was also at the Reagan Library. Although she felt a bit out of place as the older sister, she enjoyed playing the role of chaperone.
“I’m escorting Breanna, so I’m loving it,” Shannon said.
Breanna was greeted by many of her classmates, one after another hugging and laughing with her. It has been a while since Breanna has been able to see all of the kids she grew up with gathered in the same place. Each embrace by a friend had its own back story. Some grew up with her in the same neighborhood, some were teammates who played soccer with her, others were friends from classes. Most were a little surprised to see how wonderful Breanna looked, and all were delighted to see that she had managed to attend the prom.
Shannon also made certain that other members of the community who generously gave their services for the evening were mentioned.
“The hair was donated by one of the members of the Moorpark Country Club where I work,” Shannon said. “The limo was donated by another country club member. That was my surprise for her. They heard about Breanna’s story and wanted to help out.”
Shannon added that although she may now be of legal age, the rules of prom night, which Shannon pronounced to her little sister, were likely spoken by many parents to many teens that evening.
“No drinking allowed in the limo.”