The Basketball Game Lauren Hill Played In Last Weekend Was The Brave Teenager's Dream Come True
For most teenagers, getting to play in a basketball game is no big deal, but for 19-year-old Lauren Hill, it's a dream come true. Having been diagnosed last year with terminal brain cancer, Hill played in a college basketball game on Sunday and fulfilled her lifelong dream. The game was a collaborative effort between Hill's team and the National Collegiate Athletic Association — and even NBA star LeBron James chimed in with his encouragement. Their generous support of the teen is heartwarming enough to renew anyone's faith in this cold, dark world, but the most inspirational part of this story is hands down Hill herself. She's a jump-shooting paragon of bravery.
Hill was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma last year, and has expressed that her one dream in life would be to play in a college basketball game. The season-opening game between Hiram College and Hill's school, Mount St. Joseph, in Cincinnati, Ohio wasn't supposed to take place for another two weeks, but the NCAA granted a special waiver to move the game up, so the freshman could play when she was still healthy enough. Even though Hill suffers from unbearable headaches, intense dizzy spells, and sensitivity to light, she's been getting up at 5:30 a.m. along with her teammates ever since practice began, to prepare for that first game.
Looks like all that hard work paid off because during the game, Hill, a starting forward, made two layups, including one with her non-dominant hand. Since her disease has affected her right hand, Hill had to shoot with her left, but scored anyway. Later on in the game, she made another layup using her right hand.
What drives Hill? She told NBC News:
I wanted to push and challenge myself because that is who I am. Once I commit to something, I do it, part of (my) never give up attitude.
Plus, it makes her forget she even has an illness. She described how basketball makes her feel to CBS News:
I wanted to wear those shoes and wear that jersey and feel like a superhero again, because that's how I feel when I put on that jersey and that number.
Doctors have told her that she may only have months to live, but her focus is on the game, and her team. She told CBS that every time she's not at practice, she feels like she's letting other people down. When asked why, Hill said:
Because I love them. They're like my family. And they keep me going. They're what make me positive.
As if that wasn't demonstrative enough of her strength of character, Hill has also started an online challenge called Layup4Lauren, which raises awareness for her cancer. Participants spin around five times and then attempt a layup with their non-dominant hand. If they make it, they pass the challenge on to someone else; if not, they donate to The Cure Starts Now Foundation. It's the same concept as the Ice Bucket Challenge.
Lauren's cancer, diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), is a type of tumor found in the brain's pons, which are located on the brain stem near the top of the spinal chord. These tumors cause pressure on the cranial nerves in the pons that control eye and facial movements and can cause difficulty speaking, chewing, and swallowing. The pressure can also cause weakness in the arms and legs and affect one's ability to walk.
Despite these symptoms, Hill practiced hard and played even harder in Sunday's game. When her story got out, NBA powerhouse LeBron James posted his support for the teen.
It must have been a great feeling to receive such overwhelming support, but for Hill, there's no greater feeling than just playing the sport. "I was jumping up and down and dancing on my toes because I was just so filled with joy," she told NBC.
This week, Lauren saw another childhood dream realized: the teenager appeared playing basketball on a Wheaties box.