Courtney Wagner is in her bedroom now, surrounded by walls painted in her favorite color, purple. Surrounded by love, too. Her fight against cancer is near its end. Her family is there, as the minutes, hours and days pass.
They know it won’t be long.
“We are sitting with her and keeping vigil over her, never leaving her alone for one second. We are holding her hand and caressing her soft head and piling on her bed,” Wagner’s mother, Jamie, wrote in a Facebook post late Wednesday night. “We have shared memories and stories and messages of love. I could sit in her room, holding her hand, forever. I wish I could.”
This is her wish now: Please help others.
“We’ve gotten the lion’s share of the love for a long time,” Wagner said over the phone Wednesday afternoon. “It would mean so much to us if people could share that with somebody else that needs it.”
Courtney doesn’t anymore. The 18-year-old from Canandaigua has battled cancer for the past four years, her fighting spirit inspiring thousands, including talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres. A former standout athlete in high school, Courtney and her mother were surprise guests at the The Ellen DeGeneres Show in early March after Courtney’s story went public following her Feb. 18 basketball “Senior Night.” Her coach, Mike Brennan, set it up with Brighton coach Sam Rizzo to allow Courtney to make the first basket of the game.
Wagner gets moment on court while fighting cancer
Courtney Wagner on ‘Ellen’: Amazed community got me here
After a social media campaign, DeGeneres – Courtney’s favorite comedian – invited Courtney to be in her audience, then surprised her during the show by inviting her on stage and interviewing her. Now thousands and thousands of people from all over the country were rooting for Courtney Wagner.
She played several matches with the Braves’ soccer team last fall, but her conditioned worsened. She couldn’t play basketball. William Smith College in Geneva had already committed to Wagner, saying she’d be on its soccer team one day, having seen Courtney’s ability in that sport when she was still well enough to play.
She’s listed on the roster on the college’s website. Her teammates wear purple T-shirts that say, “Courtney’s Crew.” They’re asking fans to wear purple at Saturday’s home match. Courtney had to stop going to classes in early September when pain in her neck intensified. About a month ago, an MRI revealed the treatments that had been working against the tumors in her neck and spine were no longer effective.
Now, her family waits by her bedside, their emotions jangled, changing from moment to moment, hour to hour, day to day.
“I never would have predicted that there would be any happiness in these days, but there is,” Jamie Wagner wrote on the “Courtney Kicking Cancer” Facebook page late Sunday night. “We are desperately sad, and yet Courtney keeps providing us with a reason to smile. I marvel at the amazing girl she is.”
In the face of all this, Jamie Wagner asks the public to help others. She thanks those who already have donated in Courtney’s honor to St. Baldrick’s, a charity for childhood cancer; CURE Childhood Cancer; Anna’s Wish; and Camp Good Days and Special Times in nearby Branchport, Yates County.
These last few days, like the last few months, have been a rollercoaster.
“Courtney has had joys and sorrows just like anyone else. She got to go to college, which is a goal she set for herself. A lot of people loved and supported her and helped her get there, just like they have for everything,” Jamie Wagner said. “Really, our message is to please share that love with other people.”
Courtney Wagner elated over ‘Ellen’ appearance