RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
And now this - a 19-year-old college freshman played her first game yesterday for a tiny, Division III college in Cincinnati. That's not usually big news, but Lauren Hill's medical condition and her struggle through it brought that game and her team national attention. NPR's Sam Sanders has the story.
SAM SANDERS, BYLINE: So many people wanted to see Lauren Hill play that her school, Mount St. Joseph University, had to move the game from its 2,000-seat venue to another one in town that seats 10,000. The game still sold out. The crowd went wild just after Lauren Hill's first basket right as the game began.
SANDERS: Hill's Coach, Dan Benjamin, had even gone over this moment with her.
DAN BENJAMIN: What are we going to do after you make the first bucket? Call a timeout to celebrate? Or are we going to run back on D? She looked at me, and she said, coach, we're going to call a timeout and celebrate.
SANDERS: Why all this attention? Well, Lauren Hill has a very deadly rare form of brain cancer. She was diagnosed in her senior year of high school just over a month after she signed on to play at Mount St. Joseph's. Lauren has a brain tumor about the size of a lemon. Doctors expect her to die before the new year. The NCAA allowed this game to be played two weeks early because of her condition. One of Lauren Hill's dying wishes was to play college basketball, another wish - raising awareness about her disease and money to fight it.
KEITH DESSERICH: She wanted to fight. She wanted to be fearless. She wanted to win the battle, and she wanted to make sure that no child ever has to go through what she's going through here today.
SANDERS: Keith Desserich runs a charity called The Cure Starts Now. It's dedicated to raising research funds to fight the exact type of cancer Lauren Hill has. Desserich says she's become a voice for other children who have suffered with this disease not been heard. Lauren's tumor leaves her disoriented during play. She gets tired a lot. She's even begun shooting with her non-dominant hand, but she said during the game that she's OK.
LAUREN HILL: I knew that, you know, when I was starting this with this, it's a challenge. It's a really big challenge, but I decided to face it.
SANDERS: After Hill and her teammates celebrated her first shot, after the crowd of 10,000 chanted Lauren Hill's name, she told Brad Johansen what it all felt like. He's with the local TV news station WKRC.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
BRAD JOHANSEN: How good does this feel?
HILL: I've never felt so good in my entire life.
SANDERS: The team's next game is three weeks from now. Lauren's coach is not sure if she will play, but Hill would not call yesterday's game her last.
HILL: Let's not call it my last game. This is my first collegiate game.
SANDERS: Hill said she'll keep playing if she can. She says she's just taking things moment by moment. That's a pretty good strategy on the court and off.
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