Ailing grandmother attends UConn's shootaround

Joan Lewis always talks about having lived a full and rich life.

Well, on Tuesday, it got a little richer, as the grandmother from Virginia, who has Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, fulfilled another dream before she dies.

Two days after seeing the Connecticut women’s team compete in the NCAA tournament, the devoted Huskies fan was a guest at Tuesday’s shootaround at the Liacouras Center. The 74-year-old even gave top-seeded UConn a pep talk for Tuesday night’s Philadelphia Regional final against second-seeded Duke.

“I hope you try harder tonight than you did against Georgetown on Sunday,” said Lewis, who lived in Wallingford, Conn. for 30 years before moving to Virginia two years ago.

From an ordinary fan, this message might not carry a lot of weight. But the Huskies were touched by her words. They realized they heard what could be the last pep talk the noticeably weak Lewis gives.

When doctors diagnosed her cancer in September 2009, they told her that she had just a couple of weeks, maybe a month, left. But Lewis has far outlived the grim prognosis.

She gained attention after seeing UConn play over the weekend. That and watching her grandson, Leo Kevill, row at St. Joseph’s Prep were the final items on her “bucket list” of things to do before she dies.

Lewis, who is in a wheelchair, rode 250 miles with her daughter, Judy Lewis, from Charlottesville, Va. to Philadelphia on Saturday.

On Sunday morning, Joan Lewis watched her grandson compete. Then accompanied by another daughter, Jackie Lewis, she made it to the Liacouras Center in time for the Huskies’ 68-63 victory over the Hoyas.

Lewis, who is scheduled to attend Tuesday night’s game, received the invitation to attend UConn’s shootaround Monday evening.

-- Keith Pompey