A year and a half ago, Lauren Hill was just another teenage girl getting ready to go to college. Her life became a dizzying whirlwind when she was diagnosed with DIPG, a form of terminal brain cancer.
Hill died April 10 after a hard fought battle with the disease.
Lauren’s story has been in the spotlight of the news for the past year now.
It started on her 18th birthday. Hill had committed to play college basketball at Mount St. Joseph, a college in Cincinnati.
“I said, ‘Oh, I gotta make a memory on my birthday,’” Hill said. “I called the coach and said ‘I’m coming to the Mount to play.’”
Lawrenceburg High School began their season with high expectations from No. 22. But early on, they noticed that something was off with Hill.
“I wasn’t keeping up with the other girls,” Lauren had said. “My ball handling was sloppy, so I just figured I was out of shape.”
Symptoms of DIPG are dizziness and muscle weaknesses. Hill showed both of these, and further problems led to a hospital visit to find the cause.
Forty-nine days after her birthday, Lauren Hill was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, a rare type of brain cancer usually found in young children. DIPG is inoperable and the chances of survival are slim.
No. 22 was given two years to live.
The news came as a shock to her parents.
“I got weak, Lisa [Lauren’s mother] got sick, and typical Lauren, she wanted to know if she could still play basketball,” her father, Brent Hill, recalls.
When the news set in, Lauren turned to God to find answers.
“I was desperate and I asked God that … I didn’t want to be another local story that disappeared and I just became another statistic on paper,” she said. “I prayed that God would keep me there. And if he kept me, I would do anything that I could to be the voice for little kids.”
God listened, and Lauren followed through.
“She’s a special person,” said Dan Benjamin, coach of the Mt. St. Joseph Tigers. “This girl is so strong. She’s dealing with death and all she’s thinking about is everyone else.”
Benjamin and the NCAA pulled some strings, and they gave her a chance to play in a college basketball game on Nov. 2.
When the Tigers took on Hiram College, 10,000 fans packed into Xavier University’s Cintas Center, a record crowd for both colleges.
Lauren Hill started in her first ever college basketball game.
Fittingly, Lauren Hill scored the first points of the college basketball season. She took a pass to the post, and hit a left-handed layup to score the game’s first two points. She was taken out of the game, leaving to a standing ovation.
Coach Benjamin subbed her back in with 30 seconds left, much to the delight of the cheering crowd. Hill got the ball, missed a layup, but her teammate fed her the ball one more time, and Hill hit a right handed layup, scoring the final points in the game.
She would score a total of 10 points in her college career before becoming an honorary coach, as the cancer would not permit her to play.
But the points she scored are not her most impressive stat. Hill’s nonprofit organization, Club 22, raised over $2.5 million to help find a cure for this devastating tumor.
Lauren Hill added many accolades along the way. She was awarded the Pat Summit Courage Award, and was named to the all-conference first team in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC).
Lauren Hill defied all odds. She was given until December to live. She beat that, and lived four more months. She inspired all of America, even basketball superstar LeBron James. On the day she died, James sent out five tweets, forming a letter to her.
“You are the true definition of strength, courage, power, leadership, etc etc!” wrote James. “Your time spent on earth will never be forgotten.”
“She’s in a better place now,” James said when asked about Hill during a pregame shootaround on Friday. “The man above doesn’t make any mistakes and while she was here on Earth, she inspired a lot of people.”
Hill is not done making an impact. The Cure Starts Now, the recipient of her fundraising monies, added 100 extra seats to their gala in order to accommodate the demand. The gala is set for April 18 in Cincinnati.
“I don’t want people to say I lost, or I gave up,” Hill told The Enquirer. “I want: She kicked DIPG’s butt.”
No one would call Lauren Hill a loser. Far from it. She showed America that, even with death looming over her head, she could still take joy in the game of basketball and the thought of helping people.
“Life is precious,” Hill told WKRC-TV. “Every moment you get with someone is a moment that’s blessed, really blessed.”