Cheerleader, Miss Oregon proves unstoppable

Kaelia Neal, Editor-in-chief

A challenging disease doesn’t stop Abigail Hoppe from living life to the fullest.
With text messaging, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter, people immerse themselves in their phones as a source of entertainment and communication. But for Hoppe, it’s more than that.

Her phone is, literally, her lifeline. Living with Type 1 diabetes, she has to wear two machines at all times. One is a glucose monitor she has clipped under her blouse. It displays her glucose levels on her cell phone.

“113. That’s perfect,” she said, smiling ear to ear She said keeping her blood sugar low is good as long as she remembers to eat something before working out, as exercise demands sugar for fuel. The other device Hoppe keeps on her is an insulin pump. Use of the pump cuts the need for her to inject herself with the life-sustaining drug from several times a day to once every other day.
Type 1 diabetes “doesn’t have to become your entire life,” she said. “You can still do things outside of it.”

“Having the glass-is-half-full mentality instead of the glass-is-half-empty mentality shapes who I am,” she said. Hoppe has a passion for dance, and that led her to enter pageant competitions giving her an opportunity to perform on stage. It turned out she was a natural, as she went on to win the 2016 Miss Oregon Outstanding Teen title at a pageant in Seaside.

To prevail, Hoppe, who normally focuses on ballet, stepped out of her comfort zone to perform a dance in the Spanish flamenco tradition. “I think the biggest difference, and the reason I won Miss Oregon, is because I’ve never had so much fun dancing on stage in my life,” she said. During her tenure as the Miss Oregon Outstanding Teen, Hoppe traveled around the state telling children what it’s like living with Type 1 diabetes.

Along the way, she became a youth ambassador for the Juvenile Diabetes
Research Foundation. “That’s why I do pageants,” Hoppe said. “If I have this, I might as well use this.”

This fall, Hoppe launched her college career at Linfield College. One reason she chose Linfield was its proximity to Salem, where her family lives. While she faces the challenge of living with Type 1 diabetes, her three siblings face even more daunting health challenges, and she feels she needs to be there for them.

Her 17-year-old sister, Evie, suffers from hydrocephalus, which has forced her to endure multiple brain surgeries. Her 15-year-old brother, Ethan, has been diagnosed with lymphemdema tarda, which causes his right leg to swell to three times the size of his left. He also suffers from extreme allergies.

If that weren’t enough, cerebral palsy has left her youngest sibling, 11-year-old Charlie, quadriplegic. But she said the family maintains a relentlessly upbeat dynamic. “My parents told us you can’t always control what happens with your life, but you
can decide how you react,” she said, by way of explanation.

Being the oldest, it’s no surprise to see Hoppe assuming a surrogate mother role in her family. That has also carried over into her career goal— becoming an elementary school teacher. At Linfield, she is serving on the cheerleading team in addition to pursuing a degree in elementary education.

She said she’s not going to let Type 1 diabetes stop her from engaging in physical activity. She does have to take periodic
breaks during games, and said that probably confuses spectators. “Little do they know I’m checking my blood sugar and eating a snack,” she said. Hoppe said she knows people are shocked to see the machines she carries with her, but it’s something she’s proud of.

She recalled a young girl once pointing at her glucose monitor and exclaiming, “I have that too!” She’s determined to use her disease in a positive way, by showing others that no matter what challenges they are called to face, good can still be
found in life.

“You can’t change your life,” she said. “You can’t change what happens to you, so embrace it.”