College basketball player Lauren Hill dies of inoperable brain tumor

Apr 10, 2015 at 10:30 a.m. ET
Image: ESPN

Nineteen-year-old college student Lauren Hill won our hearts when she chose to play on the freshman Mount St. Joseph basketball team with an inoperable brain tumor. Now, our hearts are breaking as Hill has reportedly lost her fight with terminal brain cancer early this morning.

The teen from Greendale, Indiana, was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer, Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), when she was just a senior in high school. DIPG most often affects young children ages 4 to 9. Even in the face of such devastating news, Hill opted to make the most of the time she had left instead of sitting on the bench. She decided to play basketball for Cincinnati's Division III Mount St. Joseph — though Fox Sports notes that soccer was her favorite sport.

Ultimately, Hill's "live in the moment" attitude was rewarded. Sports Illustrated reports that she played in four games and made five layups this season, two occurring in her unforgettable final game against the College of Wooster that ended in a 66-65 win on Dec. 16, 2014. That inspiring game marked the end of her basketball career. Hill moved to the position of honorary team coach shortly thereafter. Hill was also granted an honorary doctorate from Mount St. Joseph and named to the first-team of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference.

At one of Hill's last games, she shared her dream of finding a cure for cancer. She said, "When I was diagnosed, I remember kind of feeling lonely because nobody understood. And now that more people know about this story and the awareness of DIPG, I'm so happy that people know about it now and that we can get some research going and hopefully find that home run cure for cancer."

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For Hill, it was this awareness that mattered most, though she was "probably not going to be around to see it." Her goal in moving forward and staying on the court at the end of her life was simply to help others. Hill continued, "And that's why we need to keep staying with this and not end it with this game, and keep supporting research."

Hill not only put a face to an incurable form of cancer, she helped to raise over $324,000 for The Cure Starts Now Foundation. The loss of Hill has impacted millions — her selflessness and surprising optimism in the face of tragedy touched family, friends, fans and even pro athletes.

Lebron James posted to Instagram, "You are simply and truly 'AMAZING' Lauren Hill! Thank you for inspiring me, and I'll try my best to match you! Congrats on your game. Also be looking out for a package from I to you! You're awesome!"

Sheryl Swoops tweeted, "#LaurenHill is the true definition of a fighter, warrior, and competitor. Your story is a true blessing to us all! Keep up the fight!"

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So what can we do now that Hill is gone, besides honoring her memory? We can finish what this extraordinary teen started. Hill's ultimate goal was to raise $2.2 million for DIPG cancer research and treatment. Today, we can take a moment to thank Hill for using the end of her life to bring awareness to such an important issue. We can adopt her attitude and appreciate the preciousness of life. We can support her legacy by donating to the cause.

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