NICHOLASVILLE — Arin Gilliland lives at warp speed.
On a soccer field, the prized University of Kentucky recruit utilizes a sprinter's swiftness to move like lightning.
Driving her car, it took a nice policeman and his ticket book to get the West Jessamine High School senior to lay off the "turbo button" in her 2002 Saab 9-3.
Arin even talks fast.
Yet there is a reason far deeper than Arin's accelerated approach to life behind her decision to graduate high school early this December and start her UK career in the 2011 spring semester.
"I didn't want to go into college and my mom not be there to see me play my first game," Arin said quietly.
It was some 13 months ago when Letita Gilliland, now 49, began experiencing cramps. A trip to the doctor led to a colonoscopy.
That brought forth perhaps the scariest word in the English language: Cancer. Then it got worse. Letita's spread from the colon to the liver.
In response, she has undergone chemotherapy, radiation treatments and liver embolization.
Even after all that, the prognosis "isn't good," said Bruce Gilliland of his wife's condition.
For Arin, a senior season at West Jessamine in which she hopes to win a state championship with the girls with whom she's grown up playing soccer has taken on a weightier tone.
She's inspired by her mom's toughness.
In spite of what has been a trying regimen of cancer treatments, Letita has continued to work her normal eight-hour shift as a hair dresser in Lexington.
Many of her evenings are filled with the work she does as president of the West Jessamine girls' soccer boosters. Even now, Letita works the concession stands at games and buys supplies at Sam's Club.
"She's fighting it," Arin said. "You can't tell that she's sick. She doesn't lose her hair like normal cancer people do. She doesn't lose her strength. She's out there going to work, doing all this stuff."
Letita says the only way she knows to manage her illness is to maintain as regular a life as possible. "I feel if I give in, it is going to overwhelm me," she said.
In a way, Arin said her mom has kept her life so normal that it sometimes feels confusing.
"It's the hardest thing to explain, because she seems perfectly fine," Arin said. "If you look at her, she's fine. She seems like exactly the same person she was a year-and-a-half ago. But in reality, she's not."
The situation is filled with tension. Arin worries about her 9-year-old brother, Saylor. Yet she doesn't always know how to respond to the people who worry about her.
"It's tough sometimes," Arin said. "You always have people trying to come and comfort you. I'm not really good with emotions. I don't know how to handle the situation."
For now, Arin tries to produce as many memories as possible for her mother. Before a game against Tates Creek, Letita challenged her daughter to get a hat trick.
Arin went out and scored three goals.
Her soccer career has long been something she's shared with her mom. In a sense, it started with Letita. When Arin was around 5 years old, the children of a family friend had gotten involved in youth soccer. Letita decided to let her little girl try the sport, too.
Early on, Bruce Gilliland — the 1976 Kentucky high school state wrestling champion at 132 pounds for Fern Creek High in Louisville and a former walk-on wrestler at UK — hoped his daughter would pick fast-pitch softball as her main sport.
Said Arin: "I like to run. In softball, the only time you got to run was around the bases, and that was only if you got a hit. It was just so boring. When I was younger, I'd get in trouble because I'd pick dandelions out in the field."
So soccer became her sport, and a good choice it was. Those who follow such things closely say Arin is one of the best female soccer prospects ever produced in Kentucky. She has become an elite-level player, competing in Europe for the United States' Under-18 women's national team this year.
Colleges from Stanford to South Carolina to both Florida and Florida State made recruiting pitches for Arin. Her choice of UK was a coup for Wildcats Coach Jon Lipsitz.
"I didn't want to go to a big soccer school and just be another player," Arin said. "I wanted to be somebody who makes a difference."
At West Jessamine, Coach Kevin Wright uses his star player all over the field. Coming into this week's play, Arin had 13 goals even though she is recovering from a serious bout of mono.
"Explosive," Wright said. "That's the word I always use to describe Arin."
In a season in which Arin has much on her mind, the soccer field is her refuge.
"She's very good at not letting (her mom's illness) affect her," said West Jessamine midfielder Teryn Wright. "But I can tell she plays for her mom."
On Wednesday night when Lexington Christian visits Nicholasville, West Jessamine is calling the game Kicks for the Cure. The goal is to raise money for the fight against cancer. Under various names, the school has had such an event for years.
This year, West Jessamine will wear pink camouflage uniforms. There will be a silent auction. The team has been having bake sales to raise money for weeks (If you'd like to contribute, contact Bill Henderson at (859) 806-0017).
"Before we knew about my mom and stuff, when we did this, I was like, 'Oh, another fund-raiser,' " Arin said. "Now, I understand how much it means to try to help. I worked the bake sale at school every day."
By enrolling at UK in January, Arin thinks she can get a jump start on her academics. She will get extra months to work in a college physical conditioning program.
Most importantly of all to her, she'll have a chance to play in the spring exhibition games in a blue UK uniform.
"I don't want to go to college and my mom not be there to see me play my first game," Arin said. "I want her to see me in Kentucky blue. I figured if I went ahead and did it, she'd get to see it and experience it and feel what it's like. I want her to be a part of that part of my life before ..."
On a sunny September afternoon, Arin Gilliland's voice trailed off. Her eyes were filled with tears.