Lauren Hill never gave up on basketball and even til her last breath, she never gave up on life. The college basketball player spent the last year and a half fighting a brain tumor and did so with so much determination. Unfortunately she passed away at the tender age of 19-years-old.
As a high school senior, Lauren was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) in December 2013, and given months, if not weeks, to live. The condition caused dizziness and disorientation, which affected her ability to play on the high school basketball team. She was being recruited to play basketball at several colleges. The disease was certain to put an end to her college basketball career.
However Lauren was determined and cancer wasn’t about to stop her from pursuing her dreams of playing basketball. Almost a year after her diagnosis, Lauren was set to play for Division III school, Mount St. Joseph’s University, a small private school near Cincinnati.
Lauren’s condition was quickly deteriorating and there was doubts that she would be able to play in her first game. The NCAA agreed to let Mount St. Joseph move up its opening game against Hiram College by two weeks so Lauren could play.
There was so much interest in Lauren and people wanting to root for her that they had to move the game to a larger arena. Xavier University offered its 10,000-seat arena so more fans could attend. Tickets sold out in less than an hour.
Lauren delayed her hospice care to play in her first game. By Nov. 2, the tumor had affected Hill’s right side so much that she had to shoot with her non-dominant hand. However that didn’t stop her from scoring the first basket only 17 seconds into the game.
Legendary Tennessee women’s coach Pat Summitt and an impressive cast of WNBA players were on hand to support Hill.
She would go on to score the last basket and help her team achieve the 66-55 victory. She ended her playing career by becoming an honorary coach for the team. Lauren called it the “greatest day of her life.”
“It’s a dream come true,” Hill said that night. “To play on a college court, to put my foot down on the floor and hear the roar of the crowd — I just love it so much. I love basketball.”
She received an honorary doctorate from Mount St. Joseph and was named to the first-team of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference.
“I never gave up for a second, even when I got a terminal diagnosis… I never thought about sitting back and not living life anymore.” declared Lauren.
Mount St. Joseph University president Tony Aretz said,
“God has a new game plan for Lauren Hill. Her light will continue to shine on us all as her supporters worldwide continue her mission of increasing awareness and finding a cure for DIPG. We are forever grateful to have had Lauren grace our campus with her smile and determined spirit. She has left a powerful legacy. She taught us that every day is a blessing; every moment a gift.
As Lauren’s family and friends grieve, I am sure I speak for many who will choose to reflect on her incredible life with admiration and find ways to remember her selfless generosity. We thank God for the gift of Lauren and thank her parents and family for the honor of allowing the Mount to be a part of her life. Her love and laughter will remain in our hearts.”
Mount St. Joseph will hold a celebration and prayer for Hill Friday at 2 p.m. on campus today.
We can’t only focus on Lauren’s courageous achievements on the court, because she made even more monumental strides off the court.
She was co-founder of her nonprofit foundation The Cure Starts Now, which raised money and awareness for DIPG research.
“I’m spreading awareness and also teaching people how to live in the moment because the next moment’s not promised,” Hill told the AP after one of her team’s 6 a.m. practices. “Anything can happen at any given moment. What matters is right now.”
Lauren had set a goal of raising $2.2 million for pediatric brain cancer research and treatment, and so far she had helped raise more than $1.5 million. If you would like to donate to The Cure Starts Now, you may do so here.
Her untimely passing, does not undo all of her heroic work and the genuine inspiration that she was for others suffering with cancer. Lauren’s legend will live on.