December 30, 2007There were days when LeQuisha Whitfield, a sophomore on the University of Michigan women's basketball team, didn't want to answer the phone, fearful of what that day's news would bring.
The calls from Sireece Bass came daily. Sometimes she'd just check in. Other times, she'd say she wasn't feeling well.
Whitfield, who met Bass when she was 13, never knew what to expect. She just didn't want to take that call, the one that would confirm her worst fears.
At 16, Bass was diagnosed with lupus, a disease in which the body's immune system attacks healthy cells and tissue.
In the earliest stages, Bass was on a daily diet of 26 pills and followed a daily routine that consisted of waking up, attending school if she felt strong enough and coming home before going back to bed.
Yet, the only thing Bass could think about was basketball, a game she loved and that she hoped would carry her to the University of Michigan.
But when her diagnosis came, she feared all of that would change.
"I thought my basketball career was over,'' said Bass, a 5-foot-7-inch sophomore guard. "I just didn't understand. I just wanted to keep my health for basketball - not really keep my health to live.''
The timing of Bass' diagnosis couldn't have been worse. She was entering her junior year at Detroit's Pershing High School and was receiving invitations to big-time camps.
But doctors told Bass she wouldn't return to full health for up to a year, forcing her to live life without basketball.
"The whole time, I was saying, 'Why me' - I was mad at the world,'' Bass said. "I wondered why I had to get (lupus) and why it couldn't be something mild.''
Just two months after her diagnosis, doctors began to see improvement. By November, Bass was back on the court. Yet, there were other issues.
Bass' father was fighting cancer, and he would die in March of her junior year.
But Bass was determined to remain positive.
"There's no reason to be negative about things that are out of your control,'' she said. "It just took me a while to understand that.''
She finished her junior year with a 4.0 grade-point average, was invited to the USA Basketball Youth Developmental Festival in Colorado Springs, Colo., and offered a scholarship by former Michigan coach Cheryl Burnett.
Last season as a freshman, Bass played in 26 games for the Wolverines and made eight starts.
She's now down to four pills a day and is rarely affected by her disease. She goes full speed in drills.
"Basketball means a lot to her,'' Michigan coach Kevin Borseth said. "She's on the court, she cares, she tries hard. I don't ever see her walking around feeling sorry for herself because she's got something.''
Bass will live with lupus the rest of her life, but doesn't allow it to define who she is or what she is capable of doing.
"She's still pushing and fighting - it's somewhat of an inspiration,'' Whitfield said. " So I can't complain too much because I look at how she handles what's she's had to deal with.'' Way 2 Go LeQuisha !!
I look normal, as I have an "Invisible Illness". You can not catch it, you can not see it. It's called Lupus.My body is attacking itself on the inside.www.LupusMCTD.com
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