Dover's Maddie Hill fought to the end

Katherine Ranzenberger
  • Maddie Hill, 19, died from cancer Wednesday night.

Maddie Hill was a fighter in everything she did.

Maddie Hill runs soccer practice drills during her senior year at Dover High School. Hill died this past summer after a long battle with cancer at age 19.

The 19-year-old Dover woman fought three separate battles with cancer. She fought to keep her job as a lifeguard even after getting sick. She fought for a normal life like every other kid.

After 11 years of fighting, Hill lost her final battle Wednesday night.

Russ Jacobs, owner of Green Valley Swimming Pool and Sports Club, said Hill was tenacious, going after the lifeguard job and impressing him during the interview before starting the job in 2013.

"She was the star of her freshman class," Jacobs said, fighting through tears. "She instantly became a hit with her co-workers. She was just an awesome young adult."

Hill was 5'2" and weighed 100 pounds, Jacobs said, but she was more than capable of doing her job at Green Valley. She quickly became a part of the family.

"All my employees tend to be close anyway," Jacobs said. "They're all like my kids. She taught swim lessons. Some of the kids who were her students were asking about her."

Diagnosis: After Hill's first summer at Green Valley, she was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, or MDS. It's a disorder caused when something disrupts the production of blood cells. It's also known as "pre-leukemia."

Jacobs said Hill fought hard to come back the next summer to keep teaching and to keep her normal life.

"She wouldn't quit," he said.

Hill was diagnosed with lymphoblastic leukemia when she was 8. It is the most common type of childhood cancer and occurs when a bone marrow cell develops an error in its DNA. The cancer initially caused the right side of her lungs to collapse.

The Dover woman received her final chemotherapy treatment in fifth grade after 2½ years. For five years, Hill was cancer-free. She made it six months into complete remission, or five years without the cancer coming back.

Maddie Hill shaves off Emily Spaulding's hair Monday night, Nov 4, 2013.

"We couldn't believe it happened again," Abby Patterson, one of Hill's soccer teammates, told The York Dispatch in August 2014. "Nobody should have to go through it one time, let alone two."

Neighbors: Emily Spaulding and Hill grew up next door to each other. The two have been friends since birth, Spaulding said.

"We grew up together," she said. "We worked together at the pool. It was always something we wanted to do together when we grew up."

Through her initial diagnosis and all her treatments, Spaulding said Hill was always upbeat, hopeful and positive.

"Even when I was having bad days and she was sick, she’d still hang out with me and talk with me and she was always so supportive," Spaulding said. "She was always so brave and always smiling. She could always lighten the mood. I don’t know how she did it."

Inspiration: The 2015 Dover High grad played soccer through high school, serving as inspiration for her team through her last few years in the school.

Teammates rallied around Hill after her diagnosis, raising more than $4,000 for her family and hosting a bone marrow registry drive through Be the Match.

Hill underwent two bone marrow transplants during her cancer treatments. One transplant match was found through Be the Match, a nonprofit community of donors, volunteers, researchers and heath care professionals that aims to find cures for cancers. The other transplant came from her younger brother, Travis.

The Dover girls' soccer team dedicated its 2013 season to Hill. It turned out to be the best season in the program history, with Dover winning its first 21 games, nabbing the program's first York-Adams League Division II title and second league tournament title. It reached the District 3-AAA semifinals for the first time ever that year.

"Maddie gave us something to work for and to fight for," Patterson told the Dispatch in 2014. "We know if she could've been there with us on that field, she would've been working hard. She really made us work hard. We wanted to do it for her. We fought like hell just for her."

Hill was crowned homecoming queen in 2014, her senior year at Dover High. She was involved in Thon, a Penn State student-run philanthropy committed to enhancing the lives of children and families affected by childhood cancer.

Vigil: There's a possible candlelight vigil being held for Hill at 9 p.m. Friday at Dover High School, 46 W. Canal St.

Plans for Hill's funeral are not available yet.

— Reach Katherine Ranzenberger at or on Twitter at @YDKatherine.