ROBINSON, Ill. (WTWO/WAWV) — It’s been nearly a year since Robinson high school senior Blain Loll received life-altering news.
“Last March I was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia,” Blain said. “It’s been a long ride to say the least.”
The teen was forced to stop playing basketball, leaving only one Loll on the Maroons’ active roster – Blain’s twin brother, Cooper.
“It’s been a lot for me to watch him play,” Blain shared. “And I know it’s been a lot for him to just watch me fight every day.”
Cooper echoed Blain’s statement, saying he has struggled watching his twin go through cancer treatment.
“It’s definitely been difficult to witness it firsthand,” Cooper said. “I mean, he’s my brother, so obviously it hurt me a lot to see him go through this.”
Cooper said the diagnosis, and the subsequent journey, has brought the already close brothers even closer together.
“We’re able to talk to each other about more things now,” Cooper explained. “Not hold it all in from each other; we can talk about things.”
Robinson boys basketball head coach Mack Thompson also struggled to process the diagnosis of his player, but said he knew from his own past experience there would be no shortage of support for the Loll family.
“In 2017, my son was in the hospital for 25 days with MRSA really bad,” Thompson shared. “The community was outstanding, not only our community but surrounding communities. As soon as I heard about the diagnosis, I knew they were in good hands in that regard because the community here, they’re willing to back their community members, especially their youth.”
Thompson said there was an outpouring of messages and inquiries into how people could help Blain and his loved ones, support Blain said is a true blessing.
That support is shown through the backing of the Buckets for Blain Foundation, which was created to help other teens battling blood cancer diagnoses, which has been the recipient of funding from several events and initiatives.
There has also been success on the court for both Loll brothers this season; Cooper scored his 1000th career point in January and Blain was there in assistant coach mode to see it.
“I wasn’t able to be out there (on the court) to share with him, but I was on the bench and I watched him score,” Blain recalled. “It’s just been incredible.”
And at the end of January, Blain got the all-clear to participate in contact activities for the first time in 10 months. Thompson said it was still a heavy decision to send Blain out on the court.
“The way Blain plays is very contact-oriented,” Thompson said, smiling. “He’s a hustler, he dives for loose balls. We were kind of hesitant on even giving him that opportunity, but I talked to our trainer during the game and he said ‘as long as it’s not a long, extended period of time, I’m good with it’.”
“He came down and knelt down beside me and said ‘I’m gonna put you in but it’s up to you, because I know your dad’s not here’,” Blain recalled. “I thought about it for a second and I was like ‘no’, and then I thought again and I was like ‘even if he was here, he’d want me to play, he wouldn’t want me to wait for him’.”
On top of the on-court progress Blain has made, he said his doctors are happy with his progress through treatment, and his port was removed in January.
The teen said during this journey, his focus has been on remaining positive.
“From a young age I was just always happy, just positive,” Blain said. “That’s how I tried to be even through the hard days, even when I was first diagnosed. I laid in the hospital bed and felt sorry for myself, but I knew I couldn’t be like that forever; I had to get up and attack every day as a new day.”
Thompson also shared the Maroons are hosting a Coaches vs. Cancer game on Saturday, February 4 vs. Teutopolis with proceeds going directly to the Buckets for Blain Foundation.
And Cooper’s final words in his interview about his brother?