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Preds' Hockey Fights Cancer Ambassador Shares Desire to Help Others

Cancer Survivor Drops Puck for Ceremonial Faceoff, Helps Predators to Raise $81,000 on HFC Night

by Brooks Bratten @brooksbratten / Senior Communications & Content Coordinator

It was supposed to be the appointment to tell her she was cancer free.

Instead, five years after she had defeated leukemia once already, then 15-year-old Lily Hensiek got the news again. But, as the initial wave of shock and sadness began to subside, a different feeling came over her - one of determination and hope.

So, just as she did almost a decade ago, Hensiek fought - and beat - cancer again.

Now 17, Hensiek, a Nashville native and lifelong Predators fan, was selected to serve as the team's Hockey Fights Cancer Ambassador last Saturday as the Preds took on the Bruins. Those duties included dropping the puck for a ceremonial faceoff between Preds Captain Roman Josi - her favorite player - and Boston Captain Zdeno Chara.

Center ice at Bridgestone Arena is a long way from the hospital bed Hensiek found herself in with regularity at times throughout her life, but out of that has come a greater purpose.

"Any way that I can help to hopefully find a cure one day is awesome, and I'm willing to do anything," Hensiek said while sporting her custom Predators jersey. "Any way that I can help with the community to bring out awareness is just something that I love to do in general."

That passion has translated into a goal to one day become a pediatric oncology nurse, and with acceptances to four colleges already, Hensiek is well on her way to providing the same care to others that she's received from Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt.

"She said she wanted to make a difference after she was diagnosed when she was seven and wanted to be involved," Hensiek's mother Larissa Featherstone said. "The day she was diagnosed and relapsed, she said she'd do whatever it took to get through it again and to live her dream to become a pediatric oncology nurse. She's a pretty amazing kid."

With a laugh, Hensiek says she watched plenty of Netflix while she was in the hospital during her second battle, viewing episodes of Fuller House and Grey's Anatomy over and over again to keep her occupied. There were Preds games mixed in as well, with a number of visits from players over the years.

The team's involvement with the hospital is ever present, always noted by those who experience it firsthand.

"Lily was in the hospital a lot over the past few years, more times that I can recall, and we saw the Preds up their numerous times," Featherstone said. "I felt like they were constantly interacting with the kids, and those visits seem to mean a lot to them, which means a lot to the families."

As she dropped the puck between a pair of towering NHL captains before walking away with their autographed sticks, Hensiek thought of not only what she's been through, but where she's still going.

There are so many more just like her fighting for a cure, relying on Predators fans for assistance. Those in attendance last Saturday did their part - with a grand total of $81,000 raised toward the cause - but the fight will continue on, for now.

If Hensiek has anything to do with it, perhaps she'll put an end to it in her lifetime. Her mother doesn't doubt it.

"These kids need a voice, they need to be heard and I think awareness is what eventually will find a cure," Featherstone said. "The drug that Lily got her second time through treatment was something developed since she was little, so awareness really does bring around the research that hopefully will one day find a cure for all the kids. There's a lot of heartache going on at Children's Hospital, but nights like these certainly help."

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