Lauren Hill died overnight from Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glimoma (DIPG), a form of brain cancer. She was 19.
I suspect most of you have heard of her. She was from Lawrenceburg, Indiana and received her death sentence during her senior year of high school. She had already committed to playing basketball at Mt. St Joseph University in Cincinnati. Since her time was short, the NCAA allowed schedules to be reconfigured so Lauren could play in one college level game. Estimates were that she would not live past the end of 2014.
The story, as they say, went viral. The location was moved to accommodate a larger audience. The Division III game was shown on television.
She played. She scored. Everyone following the story cheered and cried.
But Lauren wasn’t finished. She kept on fundraising and appearing in public. She even played in another game and lived past her expiration date. She raised more than a million dollars and stayed in the public eye even as her health deteriorated.
Reports of her death are all over the internet, including this from The Washington Post. In an interview in December, she said she didn’t want anyone to say she lost a fight. Here, you will hear none of that nonsense. She had an incurable disease and squeezed a whole lot of living into her last few months. She is a household name and her legacy goes on.
I want to be very careful here. As the brilliant Gayle Sulik points out, when we start elevating the heroic model of a person living with cancer, we run the danger of valuing one path over another. In such a way, we risk telling everyone that there is one right way to “do” cancer and, in doing so, diminish the importance of those who do go gently into the good night.
Trust me. The last thing in the world I believe is that anyone is doing cancer wrong. This is not, this will never be, my point.
Lauren chose her path just like we all do. But the choices she made deserve to be celebrated and she deserves praise for making them. I think it’s entirely possible to honor her without diminishing anyone else, and that is what I’m here to do.
Today is her day – where we reflect on what an incredible life she lived, say prayers for her family and friends, and think about what we can do to make sure that today isn’t the end.