CINCINNATI — Lauren Hill is using her limited energy and her final weeks to try to inspire others and to raise money for cancer research.
The 19-year-old college basketball player sleeps a lot now and needs a wheelchair to get around Children's Hospital in Cincinnati, where she's getting care for her growing brain tumor. She acknowledges that it's a difficult time, but says she tries to think about what she can do to help others in the days she has left.
Hill got international attention last fall when she decided to play on the freshman basketball team at Mount St. Joseph even as her inoperable brain tumor was sapping her of coordination and energy. She recently appeared by satellite hookup on ABC's "The View" to talk about her season and her condition.
Afterward, she told a WCPO crew that helped set up the interview: "You're supposed to make the best of every moment, but it's hard. It's really, really hard."
Hill's family said on her Facebook page late last week that her status hadn't changed much.
"Occasional headache and still very tired but humor remains intact when she can work it in," said the post, which included a photo of Hill wearing a rabbit mask for Easter.
Hill has set a new goal: Raise a total of $2.2 million for research and treatment of the type of cancer she developed more than a year ago. Through her efforts, more than $1.5 million has been raised so far.
Hill developed symptoms during her senior year in high school, and the inoperable tumor was detected. She decided to attend the Division III university and play basketball as planned, her way of making the most of every day she had left. At the school's request, the NCAA moved up the opening game because of Hill's deteriorating condition.
The game was switched to Xavier University's 10,000-seat arena. Hill made the first and last baskets. She played in four games and made five layups before she became too weak to get on the court.
Before the season started, the U.S. Basketball Writers Association voted her the Pat Summitt Most Courageous Award, which is normally awarded at the Final Four (the honor was noted again at the women's Final Four on Sunday). Athletes from other colleges autographed No. 22 jerseys — her number — and sent them in support. Summitt was among the large group of players and coaches who attended her opening game at Xavier.
Hill also has befriended Cincinnati Bengals defensive lineman Devon Still, whose 4-year-old daughter, Leah, is fighting cancer and got recent scans indicating her chemotherapy has worked. They exchanged jerseys, and she attended a Bengals game last November and met Leah.
During the recent WCPO interview, Hill was asked how she'd like people to remember her.
"She was a hero and she showed cancer who's boss," Hill said.
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