Sportress of Blogitude

Devon Still surprises terminally ill college basketball player Lauren Hill (photos)

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Despite having far too much on his plate already in dealing with his young daughter Leah’s ongoing cancer battle, Cincinnati Bengals defensive lineman Devon Still went out of his way to help lift the spirits of a young woman dealing with a far more difficult and heartbreaking health prognosis.

Lauren Hill, a 19–year-old basketball player, was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), a cancerous tumor in her brain stem, on Nov. 20, 2013, less than two months after the highly touted star at  Lawrenceburg (Ind.) High School, committed to Mount St. Joseph’s on Oct. 1, her 18th birthday.

The tumor is inoperable and doctors had to tell Hill that her condition was terminal. Despite a somewhat favorable original prognosis that she may survive for up to two years, the result of an MRI last month indicated she likely won’t survive to see New Year’s Day 2015.

An effort was made following the heartbreaking news to get Hill one last chance to get on the basketball court before the end comes. The NCAA granted an exemption to allow Mount St. Joseph’s to reschedule a home game for Nov. 2, two weeks earlier than a scheduled Nov. 15 road game.

It’s a remarkable story of how someone far too young has had to face her own mortality and how she refuses to allow it to dictate her final months.

The heartbreaking yet inspirational tale of Hill getting the chance to realize her dream of playing college basketball clearly touched Still, who has become an advocate for cancer research as he devoted himself entirely to caring for his young daughter as she goes through her battle.

Still got in touch with Mount St. Joseph’s and then surprised Hill by showing up at her team’s practice on Tuesday morning.

The NFL player snapped a few photos with Hill and her teammates and gave her an autographed jersey.

Still obviously recognizes how fragile life can be and must be cherished, not to mention just how quickly things can change, how one visit to the doctor can turn a person’s life upside down. Given that he is the father of a very young and brave daughter going through a cancer battle of her own, it probably breaks his heart to see such a young woman with her entire life ahead of her facing her own death.

But he also probably feels tremendously proud of Hill for her bravery and the unbelievable inner strength she is demonstrating by the noble dignity in which she is facing her own mortality.

A local news report chronicling Hill’s inspirational yet tragic story follows below.

“I’m not scared of leaving, because I won’t be here,” Hill told Cincinnati’s WKRC Local 12 (via FOX Sports).”But the people I worry about are the people I’m leaving behind. . . . I never gave up for a second, even when they told me that I had a terminal diagnosis. I never for a second thought about sitting down and not living life anymore.”

(H/T Sporting News, top image credit: Perry Schaible/Twitter)