Skip to main content

“How to live in the moment…” Lauren Hill’s Courageous Journey

Printer-friendly version
April 21, 2015

College freshman Lauren Hill, 19, died of inoperable brain cancer on April 10, surrounded by family and mourned by thousands.

Hill was a typical teen. She was a good student and good high school basketball player; colleges wanted her.

But three years ago she was diagnosed with a cancer that mostly strikes children. It is almost never survived.

What distinguished Lauren's last three years was her determination to live fully her remaining time, even as her health declined. Mount St. Joseph's University in Cincinnati said they would let her play on its basketball team, if she was physically able.

Last November 10,000 cheered her first college basketball game, a goal she set before the disease. It was played in a sold-out Xavier University arena, used because the scheduled gym was too small.

Hill scored the Mount's first basket and its last, shooting left-handed for the first time in her career because cancer had already weakened her right side. She played briefly in several subsequent games.

In December she entered hospice care.

Lauren bore her adversity without complaint, yet always realistic about her future. She revealed an inner strength that inspired thousands; she became a motivator for many.

And as the disease advanced Lauren gave herself the job of raising awareness of the illness and generating money for research on her rare cancer. Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) is a cancer that spreads like tentacles, making it impossible to stop.  It largely hits young children, taking most before they develop into young adults or even teens.

The Cure Starts Now is a small non-profit foundation that funds DIPG research. It had raised less than $3,000,000 in its first seven years. Lauren became its advocate late last year.

When Hill passed away her effort had raised more than $1,800,000 in less than six months for research on the disease; donations continue in her memory. Lauren is the reason.

She told a Cincinnati reporter last December that she was afraid -- afraid people would say she "lost" to DIPG.

"I don't want that," Hill told the reporter. "I want: 'She kicked DIPG's butt.' "

http://www.local12.com/news/features/top-stories/stories/one-last-game-18984.shtml

As the disease progressed this year Hill, in hospice, had better days when there was little pain or migraines and no dizziness. And she had bad days, where she acknowledged "my body is shutting down and there's nothing I can do."

But there was. Her joy was infectious.

Brad Johansen, a Cincinnati television anchor, said she was "insistent on being vulnerable. She refused to hide. She wanted to be seen."

Nearing her natural death she appeared from her hospice room on “The View” with Whoopi Goldberg, and other media.

Showing us that she was still reminding people to appreciate life and teaching us, “How to live in the moment because the next moment’s not promised.”

Basketball superstar LeBron James spoke admiringly of her several times. On the day Hill died James posted an on-line letter saying "I never got the chance to meet u in person but know you inspired me the whole time! For every life u touched, u made the biggest impact of them by just being YOU!!

Cincinnati Enquirer columnist Paul Daugherty wrote "as her body puffed from the steroids she took to fight the disease, Lauren's fight went wrenchingly public. The puffier she became, the closer she got to death. It takes guts to do what she did, vulnerability be damned."

The columnist concluded "Think about that, on your next Bad Hair Day."

Lauren lived motivated to the end of her life, a life ended earlier than the average person, fighting on and inspiring others until her end. And she chose to live with confidence that her life was not in vain.

At Hill's funeral her pastor, Lauren Potts of Trinity Christian Center in Greendale, Indiana, said “Lauren truly laid her life down for every one of us through her selfless acts of love.

"Instead of retreating after her diagnosis, she was bound and determined to make a difference in the time that she had left on this earth. Instead of focusing upon herself, she focused on others and their struggles."

It might make each of us ponder -- how will I approach life's end?