'She's my sister': The incredible friendship of Michigan State basketball star and an eight-year-old girl fighting cancer
- Adreian Payne, 23, met Lacey Holsworth in hospital 2 years ago and the duo have kept in touch since and now text every day
- Lacey beat neuroblastoma - a childhood cancer - but it came back last fall
- Lacey's mother: 'She just lights up when she sees him'
By LYDIA WARREN
PUBLISHED: 12:58, 27 March 2014 | UPDATED: 14:17, 27 March 2014
Michigan State star Adreian Payne has struck up an incredible friendship with an eight-year-old cancer sufferer after meeting her in hospital.
The basketball player, 23, has become an ardent cheerleader for Lacey Holsworth, from St Johns, Michigan after they met two years ago and now he texts her every day.
When his team won the Big Ten Tournament Championship earlier this month, he carried Lacey in his arms as he was honored, and asked her to help him cut the net following the game.
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Bond: Adreian Payne of the Michigan State Spartans appears on court with Lacey Holsworth, an 8-year-old from St. Johns Michigan who is battling cancer, after defeating the Iowa Hawkeyes last month
'Lacey is my special friend and she's a good sister to me,' he told BTN. 'She has taught me to fight through everything, to always have a smile on my face even when things are wrong.'
He calls her Princess Lacey.
'Adreian's my brother,' she added. 'I just think of him and I smile.'
The duo met in Lansing's Sparrow Hospital at the start of 2012, a month after Lacey was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a form of childhood cancer that originates in the nerves.
Doctors discovered that she had two tumors - one in her abdomen roughly the size of a football and another wrapped around her spine, according to her fundraising page.
Within days, the tumors had left her paralyzed and her family was warned that she might just have two weeks to live - but after chemotherapy, the spinal tumor dissolved to soft tissue.
Close: The duo met two years ago when MSU went to visit children at the hospital Lacey was being treated
Friends: The duo now message every day and Adreian has attended fundraisers for Lacey
Family: Lacey, from St Johns, Michigan, calls the 6 ft 10 MSU senior her 'big brother'
A month later, the Michigan State Basketball team visited the hospital and met Lacey, and Adreian stayed behind to talk with Lacey more.
They struck up a friendship, enjoy drawing together and text every day, according to reports. He also joined her family at a fundraiser for Lacey last month.
'There's days where the smiles don't come as easily,' her mother Heather said. 'When he can walk in the room and you see her just light up like that, it means everything.'
Payne is not unaccustomed to struggle; his mother passed away in his arms when he was 13 after a sever asthmatic attack as he desperately searched for her inhaler, the Detroit Free Press reported.
Support: Lacey was first diagnosed with cancer in 2011 and doctors found two huge tumors inside her. The cancer returned last fall - but seeing Payne makes her light up, her family said
After her death, his grandmother became his legal guardian but she passed away two years ago from respiratory failure due to asthma complications.
He has also battled breathing issues due to small lungs, but he has learned to take smaller breaths.
'It can't be all about you,' Payne said. 'That’s true with your teammates. What can you do to help make them better? And it’s true with others you meet.
'It's more important to have a role in other people's lives that you care for.'
He said that as soon as he met Lacey, he was touched by her fighting spirit.
'She calls me her "Superman", but she’s the one who's got the super strength,' Payne said. 'And if I can bring her a little bit of happiness to help her forget everything for a little while, then that’s what I want to do.'
By his side: Lacey joined Payne as he cut down the net after the Big Ten championship earlier this month
Champions: Payne said he just wants to bring Lacey happiness so she can forget her pain for a little while
Lacey’s cancer was thought to have been beaten last summer but it returned last fall and she continues to undergo treatment.
She suffered a seizure on Tuesday, but she'll continue to be rooting for Payne and Michigan State in the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament.
'It's like having a family member that's really sick and ill,' he told Mlive. 'The only thing you can do is just play basketball because you can't be there with them. And just knowing that when I play well it makes her happy, it feels like I'm doing something in a way to help her feel better.'
MSU plays number one seed UVA on Friday night at Madison Square Garden.
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