Commentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
On the same day that Brittany Maynard chose to end her own life, a 17 year-old cheerleader named Nina Poeta also succumbed to a brain tumor but only after waging a valiant fight that inspired an entire community.
The Daily Mail is reporting on the story of Nina, a senior at Seymour High School in Connecticut who was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor in November, 2013. She put up a courageous fight against the disease while undergoing dozens of rounds of radiation.
In spite of it all, friends and family say she "always had a smile on her face" and amazed everyone by being able to keep up with her cheerleading.
In fact, WTNH reports that according to Rich Kearns the Director of Security of Seymour Connecticut Public Schools, Poeta's courage played a key role in her team's success.
" . . . (B)ack in November when she was diagnosed with this brain tumor she continued to come to school and participate in cheerleading and actually was a key part of that success for that cheerleading team where they won the state championship.”
Nina battled to the end and the community fought alongside her. For example, someone started a gofundme.com account to cover her medical bills while a local automobile dealer donated a wheelchair-accessible van to the family to help her get around after she was confined to a wheelchair. A Facebook page in her honor, called "Poeta Strong", kept track of her progress and rallied supporters to the brave young woman who was determined to keep on living until she could no longer do so.
“Nina brought out the best in thousands of people,” said a friend, Elizabeth Pisano. “She had a step up when I didn’t think it was conceivable. She was an inspiration. She really inspired us to do above and beyond what we thought we were capable of.”
Nina's end came about at 11:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 1. Like Brittany Maynard, who died a few hours earlier, Nina was surrounded by her loved ones and died peacefully.
Reading this story, I couldn't help but compare the deaths and legacies of Nina and Brittany. Both women had brain tumors and both died peacefully in the arms of their loved ones, but this is where the similarities end.
Where Brittany gave up and admitted defeat, Nina fought on. Brittany spent her last days rallying people to embrace laws that would allow people to kill themselves; Nina spent her last days proving that human beings can make a difference up to the last minute of their lives. Brittany's choice was all about death; Nina's was full of life. One woman inspired fear, the other courage.
It's not difficult to discern which woman exhibited true courage - which is not the absence of fear, but the refusal to let fear control you.
May God have mercy on the souls of both of these young women.
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