“I couldn’t believe it was happening to me:” Community rallies behind high school runner battling brain tumor

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CEDAR GROVE -- Participating in the sport of cross country at the high school level means lots of long, tough practices. A local runner doesn't mind though, as she describes her previous season as "interrupted."

The cross country program is a strong one at Cedar Grove-Belgium High School. Elysia Hoopman is a junior, who helped the Rockets to a second place finish at state her freshman year -- her sophomore year didn't go so well.

Elysia Hoopman

Elysia Hoopman

"For her, she's pretty committed, so when she wasn't getting better it was kind of scaring me," said Les Paul, Rockets head coach.

"When I would run, I wouldn't know it. You're supposed to have your form down here, but when I would run, I would unknowingly hold my arm up here like I was injured somehow," said Elysia.

After visits to a chiropractor, her family doctor and Children's Hospital, Elysia learned she wasn't exactly injured -- she had a brain tumor.

"I was just really shocked. I couldn't believe it was happening to me. You always hear about it, but it never happens to you or one of your friends or family," said Elysia.

"It was scary.  It was probably worse when I saw her in the hospital because it all just kind of came to reality," said Quinn Hoopman, Rockets freshman runner.

It's hard to believe when you see her now, but Elysia had a golf ball sized benign tumor in her brain, affecting the motor skills on her right side. She had a pair of surgeries in April and June of this year. The support of her team and her community buoyed her throughout.

"There were people hanging signs up in their businesses, it was really nice.  It was nice to know that we had our entire community looking after us," said Elysia.

"It did help because I knew a lot of people cared and we had their support.  A lot of people would ask me at school how she's doing," said Quinn.

"If you believe in prayer, it means everything.  I think the local community, not only did they support from meals or someone to stop by and say hi or watch the boys while Elysia was in the hospital, a lot of well-wishes, fingers crossed, prayers, the whole bit. It was really important," said Paul.

Quinn is a freshman on the boys team and Elysia is back with the girls. She isn't back to her previous level but she is making progress on her goals.

Elysia Hoopman

Elysia Hoopman

"At first, it had just been plain running, being able to run in general, but now it's gotten more specific," said Elysia.

After all the Hoopman family has been through, Elysia and Quinn are still high schoolers, keep that in mind. So more than anything, they would simply like to get back to normal...whatever normal may be.

"It's nice to just be able to be a kid and go to school and stuff and still be able to do all the things I want to do," said Elysia.

Strong program, strong community, and strong spirit.