by Emily Engle
On Sunday, November 2, college freshman Lauren Hill achieved her two biggest goals: to raise awareness for DIPG, a type of brain cancer, and to play in a college basketball game. Hill is an 18-year-old freshman at Mount St. Joseph College in Cincinnati, Ohio, who was diagnosed in September with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), an inoperable cancer. Her diagnosis was terminal and doctors gave her only months to live.
With an uncertain amount of time left before her, Hill dedicated herself to raising awareness for her cancer – a cancer with a 0% survival rate and yet no current research on new treatments. And because this rare cancer is most common in five- to seven-year-olds, Hill works as a mouthpiece for children with the disease, helping them to communicate symptoms and pain to doctors.
But as Hill’s doctors began to declare with more certainty that she would not see 2015, her college wanted her to live her other dream: playing on an NCAA team. While Mount St. Joseph was originally scheduled to play Hiram College on November 15, the date was moved forward to accommodate for Hill’s already deteriorating condition. The game was held at Xavier University on November 2 and saw 10,250 in the audience.
The game opened with a play created by Mount St. Joseph and shared with the Hiram players called “layup for Lauren.” In it, Hill was to take a pass and immediately go in for a layup. While in practices over the last week Hill had missed the shot several times, in the game, she sunk it on her first try. As the basket went in, the court was stormed by the rest of Mount St. Joseph’s team as they cheered and presented Hill with the game ball. Because of her lessening coordination on her right side and growing sensitivity to light and sound, Hill retired then to the bench for the majority of the game.
As the game drew to a close, Mount St. Joseph led 62-50 with 26 seconds of play left. Hill reentered the game and made one final layup to end the game with a Mount St Joseph win, 66-55.
According to Cleveland.com, Hiram’s coach Emily Hays stated, “[It] couldn’t have ended more perfectly. It was a loss for us, but it didn’t feel like it was. The whole thing was draining, and it was such a moving experience.” Speaking then of her observations of Hill, Hays added, “The look on her face was priceless. She had that big smile. I’m like, ‘That’s why we’re here.’ It’s more emotional now than it was even at the game. It kind of hits you even more when you’re looking back at it.”
Hill’s story has been eagerly followed nationwide, with many pictures and videos tagged “Layup for Lauren” posted in the hours and days after the game. Also within the days following the game, Hill received news that she was featured on Wheaties boxes. Speaking on her experience, according to espn.com, Hill said after the game, “I never thought I would play on a college court, put my feet on the floor and feel the vibration of the crowd. This game has been amazing, and everything that happened today was amazing. This is a really good day.”
And despite her grim diagnosis, Hill remains optimistic. When interviewing reporters asked her how she felt playing her last basketball game, she responded without pause that she will be well enough to play again soon.