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Florence Welch surprises teen battling cancer for emotional duet with classmates

A teen with cancer received the surprise of a lifetime after being told she couldn't attend an upcoming Florence + The Machine concert.
/ Source: TODAY

A teen battling paraganglioma — a type of cancer that forms tumors deep within nervous system cells — received the surprise of a lifetime after being told she was too ill to attend a Florence + The Machine concert.

Karinya Chen, 15, repeatedly asked doctors and nurses at Hospice Austin's Christopher House if she could go, despite her grim prognosis. In a Facebook post Saturday, a nurse on staff explained just how heartbreaking it was to tell Karinya she wouldn't be able to attend.

"All week, through setback after setback, she asked if she would be able to go. We tried to entertain the idea and it felt so scary and overwhelming for the medical staff and her mother that finally I said no, and my heart broke again," the nurse, Christie Kremer, wrote.

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However, Karinya ended up getting a show of her own after missing Thursday night's performance when Florence Welch and guitarist Rob Ackroyd stopped by Hospice Austin to play a few tunes.

The 15-year-old, who lives in Austin, Texas, was overjoyed to sing alongside the rock band's lead singer, and not long after that, the entire room broke out into song. The room was full of Karinya's classmates from Kirby Hall School.

"I was very grateful that they could be so generous and kind to take time out and spend it with my daughter," Karinya's mother, Cat Shiang Chen, told TODAY. "I was floored, thankful and very impressed by their act of benevolence."

Karinya, too, was incredibly enthusiastic about the visit. The super-fan hadn't seen the band live since 2011 and was really looking forward to seeing them play.

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"Our patient went from not feeling well and being very lethargic to sitting up, talking, laughing, knitting — a different person entirely. Florence came and it was really, really magical. She was 100 percent there," Melinda Marble, communications coordinator of Hospice Austin told TODAY.

The musicians brought her a bunch of T-shirts, hoodies, bags and posters.

When Karinya asked Welch to sign her arm in Sharpie (so the signature would never fade), the singer didn't think twice about doing what she could to make the young girl's day.

The high school sophomore, who started receiving hospice care in February, was brought into the facility for further treatment when symptoms became increasingly harsh on her body. At the time, she was in and out of school as pain levels were increasing.

Karinya's cancer, which she has been battling for the past five years, has spread to different parts of her body.

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According to Karinya's mother, the teen considers this surprise the second best day of her life — the first was her 15th birthday back in March. The Make-A-Wish foundation sent Karinya and a few family members on a Disney cruise to the Bahamas to celebrate.

In the days since, she's been experiencing constant pain — so Chen was ecstatic to see her daughter experiencing such happiness.

"She has had setback after setback. So for them to come over and do it for her was incredible," she said.

Karinya's classmates, teachers and administrators have all been pitching in, too. They have been taking shifts to care for her.

"The school has been instrumental in shaping her into the person she is — loving, kind, intellectually sharp. All the teachers have been a second family to her, as well as fellow students and parents," Chen added.

Though she knows her time may be limited, Karinya dreams of studying literature and biology at the University of Texas at Austin.