Baskett Jr. on cancer: ‘I gave it to God’

CMI staff photo: David Stevens Hank Baskett Jr. says the cancer doctors once told him he had is now gone and he feels blessed.

CMI staff photo: David Stevens
Hank Baskett Jr. says the cancer doctors once told him he had is now gone and he feels blessed.

By Eric Norwood Jr.
CMI staff writer
enorwood@pntonline.com

The way Hank Baskett Jr. looks at it, he never had cancer.

“The doctors diagnosed me with lung cancer,” he’s said repeatedly. “I gave it to God.”

Now the man friends know for his upbeat outlook on life says doctors tell him the cancer is gone.

“I just went to the doctor (in October),” Baskett said. “He said, ‘I don’t see anything. Either it’s gone or hiding very well.’ I said, ‘It’s gone. God already took it.’”

Baskett, the father of Clovis celebrity and former pro football player Hank Baskett III, wants the world to know he’s doing well 2 1/2 years after the cancer diagnosis.

“I am blessed. I am 69 years old. I was blessed even when I wasn’t walking with God. This is nothing. God will handle this,” he said in an interview at his Clovis home late last month.

The attitude surprises no one who knows the director of the Oasis Children’s Advocacy Center, a safehouse for abused children. He is famous for giving bear hugs to people he barely knows and spreading good will with words and actions.

“Anyone that sits with him for just five minutes, they get up feeling better than when they sat down,” said Hank Baskett III.

The United Way of Eastern New Mexico awarded the senior Baskett its Lifetime Achievement Award in March. In addition to his work at Oasis he is active in Kiwanis, rings a bell for the Salvation Army kettle drive and raises money for various charities through golf tournaments.

“I love people,” he said.

He especially loves people who share his positive outlook. He says he avoids those who like to complain about their life’s problems, and he doesn’t like to bring attention to his own.

Yes, the cancer has taken part of his lung, forcing him to use an oxygen machine. Yes, his back hurts sometimes, he needs a cane because his feet hurt sometimes.

But he’d rather talk about his wife of 33 years, Judy, or his four children, or his grandchildren, or the doctors who’ve helped him battle the cancer, or God, to whom he gives all credit for all that’s good in his life.

“I’m OK. I will never get down about what has happened to me,” he said.

That’s because he’s seen so many “innocent” children suffer around him.

“I think about all the children who die from drugs, man-made stuff. I wish I could put all of their pain, all of their suffering, on my shoulders. If I could, I’d do it,” he said.

Baskett said he believes there are multiple reasons cancer found his body.

“Maybe (God) is calling me home, telling me my time is almost up. Maybe it’s because I’m strong enough, so I need to suck it up. Or maybe he let it happen because I could be an inspiration to someone else,” he said.

His son has seen the inspiration first hand.

“He’s been positive from day one,” said Hank Baskett III. “He wouldn’t let anyone get upset (after learning he was sick).”

And the attitude has been passed along.

The younger Baskett has been forced to consider his father’s mortality these last few years.

“When that day comes,” he said, “I’m not going to let everybody be sad because my dad wouldn’t want that.”

But until that day, Hank Jr. will keep it pushing, loving and encouraging those around him.

“My plans now are to keep on doing what I’m doing. I just want to be with my family and be an inspiration to people, especially to children.”