MONTGOMERY, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) – The Daviess County community and beyond are rallying behind a former Barr-Reeve basketball star after an unexpected and devasting cancer diagnosis.

Hagen Knepp was just a few months into his freshman year at Grace College, still playing basketball, when things took a turn.

“It was more just like I know something’s wrong but I don’t want to sit out because who wants to sit out, you know? So I just continued to play through the pain,” Hagen said.

He said he wasn’t too concerned at first, and it was actually a teammate who eventually convinced him to go see a doctor.

“I started feeling kind of bad and literally my stomach was expanding with weird liquid and I was getting fat. Not fat, but I’ve always been skinny and I had a gut,” Hagen said.

What he thought would be a quick trip to the doctor’s office last year, landed him in the emergency room, and then in an ambulance to an even bigger hospital.

He was diagnosed with appendix cancer in November of 2022.

“I’ve been to so many doctors and I’ve been told a hundred different things, you know? It was nice finally getting to know what it really was but there’s so much that’s happened that I can’t even go through it all,” Hagen said.

Most recently, he had a 22-hour surgery on January 12th, leaving him in the hospital for 16 days.

“They took out basically my whole stomach and they said they got 99% of the cancer so they couldn’t cure it, but it’s like it’s not there, you know what I mean? They ‘fixed the problem’, so it’ll come back, but it could be in 20 years. So now I guess I just live my life like normal,” Hagen said.

Prior to the most recent surgery, Hagen said he really wasn’t sure what the next few months would look like for him, or how many he would have left.

“Every single second I was with my friends, I would cherish that like it was, I held onto it like it was special, and every time I was with my family [because] I could not be with them in six months,” Hagen said.

Josh Thompson is the boy’s basketball coach at Barr-Reeve.

He said when they got wind of Hagen’s cancer diagnosis, it was a no-brainer to help in any way they could.

“I think from a community perspective and also a school perspective I think it’s the mantra ‘once you’re a Viking, you’re always a Viking,’” Thompson said.

Barr-Reeve started a silent auction to raise money for Hagen’s medical expenses along with another Barr-Reeve employee who also recently received a cancer diagnosis.

Hagen said the support not only from his former school but throughout the entire state has been out of this world.

“After this, everyone here is family. The amount of people that just wrote me a letter that I’ve never even talked to, I don’t know them at all, wrote me a letter or gave me a donation. It’s like I don’t even know you and you’re giving me so much love and I feel like that helped me so much,” Hagen said.

Now, Hagen said he is looking forward to life on and off the court, and savoring every moment.

“It shouldn’t take a cancer diagnosis for us to live like that and I think that’s what I really want people to understand. You’ve only got one life and it could be over shorter than what you think, so every moment you’ve just got to cherish,” Hagen said.

The first round of the silent auction ends Friday, February 10th. The second round ends the following Friday, February 17th.

For more information on silent auction items, just visit the Barr-Reeve Media Facebook page.