The world lost a real champion today. A fighter and an inspiration, Lauren Hill packed a lot of life into her 19 years, and the world will mourn her passing.
Hill, a 19-year-old freshman basketball player at Ohio's Mount St. Joseph University, died today after losing her battle with cancer. But the teen would probably prefer that rather than focus on the loss, we focus on the wins that she racked up in the short time she was given to live.
Yes, Hill was an avid basketball player, but I'm not just talking about winning games. I'm talking about the way Hill won at life every single day, both on the court and off.
About 18 months ago, Hill was just your average senior in high school looking forward to college and the rest of her life. She had already decided to attend and play college basketball at Mount St. Joseph University. Hill began experiencing headaches and dizziness, and within a few weeks, she was sitting in the doctor's office listening to her grim diagnosis: an inoperable brain tumor and less than two years to live.
But from day one, Hill did not let this diagnosis dictate her remaining time to live. Hill embraced every moment of her life, and sought to inspire others to do the same.
"I'm spreading awareness and also teaching people how to live in the moment because the next moment's not promised," Hill told the AP. "Anything can happen at any given moment. What matters is right now."
Hill went to college. She started a nonprofit foundation that raised $1.5 million for cancer research, and she fulfilled her life-long dream of playing college basketball.
That last goal took some help from her community. Her condition was deteriorating rapidly as basketball season approached, but thanks to strong support from her family and friends, the NCAA agreed to let Mount St. Joseph advance the date of its opening game against Hiram College by two weeks so that Hill could play. More than 10,000 people turned out for that game, the vast majority of them to show their support for Hill.
"We are forever grateful to have had Lauren grace our campus with her smile and determined spirit," Mount St. Joseph President Tony Aretz said. "She has left a powerful legacy. She taught us that every day is a blessing; every moment a gift."
In all, Hill played four games and made five layups before her health forced her to sit on the bench.
Hill's battle, and her tenacious will to live inspired people all around the world. Friends, family, and those who were touched by her story — including Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James — have been reaching out to each other on Twitter today to remember Hill and the story of a life well-lived. In a series of five tweets, James posted in his open letter to Hill on Twitter today, stating "Can u please tell my Grandma I said hello. Don't be afraid, she knows you cause we spoke about u plenty of times."
Rest in peace, Lauren. And know that your life will never be forgotten.
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