Stricken hoops player reminds us we’ve got it good

Lauren Hill takes a break  Thursday as she practices with her college basketball team at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati. The school moved up its season opener so that Hill, who has an inoperable brain tumor, will be able to play in a game. Tom Uhlman/AP

These are the kind of words that, once you read them, you never forget.

“What keeps me going is remembering why I’m here.”

They come from Lauren Hill, the Cincinnati area 19-year-old who is dying.

Her story is popping up everywhere and that’s just the way she wants it.

Next Sunday, her hometown paper reports, she will play her first college basketball game.

Lauren Hill is here for all of us. She’s a soul engine, and all she wants to do for the rest of her life is remind us how good we have it, and that we need to make that goodness matter, for everyone. That would include kids with the cancer she has, which is inoperable and incurable and swiftly fatal and receives very little attention.

To that end, she is doing all sorts of interviews, locally and nationally. Her cause has become a phenomenon, its apex occurring Nov. 2 when she plays in her first college basketball game. The game was moved from Nov. 15 at Hiram College to Xavier’s Cintas Center to accommodate a packed house and Lauren’s distilled timeline. The 10,000-seat arena sold out in less than a day.

She is a shy young lady, rapidly emerging from her shell, to advise us that lives don’t have to be lived long to be lived triumphantly. Hers is an impossibly sad story. But only if we choose to look at it that way. Lauren doesn’t.

“I told (God) I’d take every opportunity to speak for the kids who can’t speak,” she says.

There’s nothing more personal that one’s own mortality and how we face it. We don’t get to judge.

A few weeks ago, for example, I wrote about Brittany Maynard, a California woman who still plans to take her own life next week rather than face the effects of her cancer. She is spending the time advocating for laws allowing the terminally ill to take their own life.

In the meantime, she’s checking off her bucket list. Last week, she made it to the Grand Canyon.

This week, my family and I traveled to the Grand Canyon, thanks to the kindness of Americans around the country who came forward to make my “bucket list” dream come true. The Canyon was breathtakingly beautiful, and I was able to enjoy my time with the two things I love most: my family and nature.

Sadly, it is impossible to forget my cancer. Severe headaches and neck pain are never far away, and unfortunately the next morning I had my worst seizure thus far. My speech was paralyzed for quite a while after I regained consciousness, and the feeling of fatigue continued for the rest of the day.

The seizure was a harsh reminder that my symptoms continue to worsen as the tumor runs its course. However, I find meaning and take pride that the Compassion & Choices movement is accelerating rapidly, thanks to supporters like you. I ask that you please continue to support C&C’s state-by-state efforts to make death-with-dignity laws available to all Americans. My dream is that every terminally ill American has access to the choice to die on their own terms with dignity. Please take an active role to make this a reality. The person you’re helping may be someone you love, or even in the future, yourself.

  • She may not have been crying, but I sure was during that fantastic Steve Hartman story on Sunday morning.