Dancer doesn’t let diabetes hold her back

For many cheerleaders and dancers nothing matters other than memorizing a routine, landing the perfect stunt, and winning the competition. For Junior Mackenzie O’Neal, cheering and dancing are more than just being the best she can be, it’s about doing what she loves. Despite the obstacles she has faced and been forced to overcome, she continues to excel at her demanding activities.

As a child, Mackenzie was diagnosed with diabetes, but she hasn’t let bring her down.

“I was diagnosed with diabetes when I was in the 5th grade,” Mackenzie said. “For 6 years I’ve had to wear an insulin pump and constantly monitor my health, my family has been so supportive.”

Mackenzie’s family continues to be supportive of her in all she aspires to do, her family contributes to her daily fight with managing her diabetes and staying healthy.

“It came as a surprise to our family because we do not have a family history of Type 1 diabetes,”Mother Susan O’neal said. “Our family was impacted a lot and we had to learn about diabetes as a family. Simple things like eating a meal together became more difficult for a while.”

With Mackenzie’s diabetes diagnosis, she and her family had to do everything they could to keep her healthy and in check.

“Mackenzie keeps track of the carbohydrates that she eats at meals so that she can enter the amount into her insulin pump and it calculates how much insulin she needs,” O’neal said. “ It gives her insulin every 3 minutes 24 hours a day 7 days a week. The pump basically acts as her pancreas.”

Being heavily devoted to dance, Mackenzie has often been faced with having to manage her diabetes to where it will not affect her.

“My diabetes could hinder me,” Mackenzie said. “But I don’t let my diabetes get to where it gets to point where I can not participate in what I love, so I just stay positive so it doesn’t hinder me.”

In dance, cheer, and in her school life, Mackenzie continues to set an example with her sense of balance and courage for girls her age.

“I feel like a lot of the girls look up to her,” cheer sponsor Samantha Morgan said. “Especially since she always has a great attitude and always works hard. She sets a good example for them. Mackenzie handles her busy schedule very well and always keeps a smile on her face.”

Mackenzie looks at diabetes as just another part of her life and she hasn’t let it get in her way, but her mother sees it being used to become the person she is today.

“Mackenzie is amazing and she has truly made an impact on our entire family. She has never let diabetes slow her down,” O’Neal said. “She would tell you that it has truly made her into the person she is today and she wouldn’t change that.”

For a solo dance showcase for Gentri Gandy’s studio, Mackenzie performed Nick Jonas’ A little bit longer, which was a song that he wrote about his life and struggle with diabetes, something that Mackenzie could identify with.

In the future, Mackenzie hopes to attend Texas A&M University and aspires to join their dance team.

“I don’t plan on dancing professionally,” Mackenzie said. “But, in college I would like to dance. I would love to go to Texas A&M and join their team and dance for the strutters.”