People rise above cancer in different ways.
For Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old woman with a brain tumor, fighting cancer meant going without treatment, enjoying her final days and advocating for death-with-dignity laws. After taking a prescription for medicine intended to kill her, Maynard died surrounded by family on Saturday in Oregon — one of the few states that permits terminally ill patients to take their own lives with a doctor’s help.
Lauren Hill, batting brain cancer, had a less controversial goal: Make a basket in a college basketball game. The 19-year old, who has been given months to live, achieved that goal Sunday.
Playing for the Division III Mount St. Joseph Lions, Hill scored two baskets in the final seconds of a game — her first — against the Hiram College Terriers in Cincinnati.
“I’ve never felt so good in my entire life,” Hill told Fox Sports.
As the Associated Press explained, the first shot was “uncontested.” For who would want to block a layup in what may be her first and last appearance in a NCAA game — a game the NCAA allowed to be played two weeks early in case she took a turn for the worse? And when Hill, who is right-handed, had to shoot her layup left-handed, as her illness — which, remember, will almost certainly be fatal — has affected her coordination and made her sensitive to both light and noise?
“It’s just a dream come true to play on the college level,” Hill said. “It was great to just be able to put my foot down and feel the crowd through the vibrations in the floor boards and I just wanted to play.”
You can see Hill’s buckets here.
There was nary a dry eye in the house.
“I looked up at the score and I saw us up seven, and I kept praying we could get a few more buckets,” Lions’ coach Dan Benjamin told WCPO Cincinnati. “I said get Lauren … Obviously when the fans started chanting her name there was no doubt were putting her back in.”
Hill — diagnosed with cancer in November 2013 not long after she signed on with St. Joseph’s on her 18th birthday — had fans on all sides of the court. Indeed, the game had to be moved to Xavier University’s 10,000-capacity Cintas Center to accommodate the crowd. Meanwhile, her jersey, No. 22, has become a rallying cry in the fight against cancer. The game raised more than $40,000 for The Cure Starts Now, a nonprofit fighting pediatric brain cancer, as ESPN reported.
“I just love it so much,” Hill said. “I love basketball.”
Among the sports luminaries present were Fred Jackson of the Buffalo Bills, former University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summit, who gave Hill an award, and members of the Indiana Pacers, who donated $5,000 to the cause.
Hill was thrilled — but had one eye on the future.
“Let’s not call this my last game,” Hill said after the game. “Let’s call this my first collegiate game.”