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Of this I'm sure: Caleb Spady was there to welcome Lauren Hill

The sports world is mourning the death of Lauren Hill today.

And rightfully so.

Hill is the basketball player who was diagnosed a year ago with an inoperable brain tumor that she knew would eventually kill her. But more than anything, she wanted to live during the time she had left. So, she and her college basketball team at tiny Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati appealed to the NCAA to play a game early this season — a game in which Lauren could play.

The game became a sensation.

So did Lauren. She inspired many with her smile and her drive and her love of life.

But part of the reason why she did what she did was to bring awareness to her form of cancer. It is called diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, but it is more widely known as DIPG. Historically, there has been virtually no funding for DIPG, which most often strikes children. The cancer cells are sprinkled like grains of sand within the brain.

I know this because of Caleb Spady.

Perhaps you remember Caleb. I had the honor of writing about this young boy from Hinton who developed DIPG. In the year during which he fought the disease, he lived and lived and lived. He continued to play baseball, his favorite sport. He went to Texas Rangers games and Oklahoma State games. He kept going to school and playing with friends and hanging with his three brothers.

He was a lot like Lauren Hill.

And like Lauren, Caleb wanted to help find a cause for DIPG. He knew that research wouldn’t come in time to save him. He understood that DIPG would take his life. And yet, one day he told his mom, Kim, that he wanted his brain donated to DIPG research after he died.

Maybe it could help save someone else.

I know the sports world is thinking a lot about Lauren Hill today, but I’ve been thinking of Caleb Spady. I’m pretty sure that he was waiting at the pearly gates when Lauren got there, probably wanting to teach her how to hit a curveball.


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Jenni Carlson

Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football... Read more ›