CNHI News Service
Lacey Holsworth, the 8-year-old cancer patient from Michigan who befriended Michigan State forward Adreian Payne and established a bond with his teammates before and during the Spartans’ run to the Elite Eight, died at her home late Tuesday night, her family said.
Holsworth, who became known as “Princess Lacey,” suffered from neuroblastoma, a fetal-nerve cell cancer, and became recognizable by the blond wig she wore after chemotherapy caused her to lose her hair.
She and her family were with Payne and his teammates in New York for the East Regional of the NCAA Tournament, the Big Ten Network reported. Michigan State defeated Virginia in the semifinals before losing to eventual national champion UConn in the regional championship game.
A post on Instagram early Wednesday read:
“Princess Lacey has achieved the ultimate victory. She now dances among angels…the world is a better place because you were in it. Our hearts are broken. We love you Doll. Dance all night…Mommy and Daddy, Will, Mitchell and Luke #LoveLikeLacey.”
ESPN reports Lacey’s friendship with Payne began in December 2011, when Payne visited her at a hospital in Lansing while she was undergoing initial treatments on a football-sized tumor discovered in her kidneys. It was the first of many visits that inspired a close friendship, which included Payne inviting Lacey and her family to Spartans games, carrying her onto the court during his Senior Night, and helping him cut down the nets after the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis.
“She is such a huge part of my life,” Payne told the Detroit News recently. “She grew to be part of my family.”
Spartans coach Tom Izzo called Payne early Wednesday morning to give him the news of Lacey’s passing.
“Even though he knew this was inevitable, it’s hard,” Izzo told the Detroit Free Press. “But he took it with the class and dignity that she taught him. I told him, ‘Not everybody gets to touch somebody’s life like you have. And sometimes other people impact your life, too.”