HOLLAND, Mich.-- It’s that time of year, where thousands across West Michigan are getting their diplomas at high school graduations. Between homework, college applications, and extracurricular activities and of course their social lives, it’s safe to say high school comes with a lot of pressure. One high school graduate from Hudsonville had an extra obstacle on top of all those pressures: battling for her life.
Fox 17’s Cassandra Arsenault caught up with the recent high school grad to ask her how she handles it all.
Cassidy Grooms has been battling cystic fibrosis since birth. Cystic fibrosis is a lung disease. It interferes with the body’s ability to carry salt and water to and from the cells. This causes a buildup of thick mucus that clogs up the lungs and digestive organs. Someday Grooms will need a lung transplant. Right now her lungs function at 70%. She shared her story with her fellow graduates and their families Thursday night at their graduation, and she had some advice for those fighting their own battles.
“When you look at me, who do you see? Someone who is smart? Someone who is short? Or do you see someone who struggles for every breath. Someone who has spent 451 missed class periods sitting in a hospital bed. Someone who is battling an illness that will eventually lead to lung implants, if I am lucky enough to get one,” said Grooms in her speech at her high school graduation.
Grooms says she’s been battling the disease since birth. She says the hardest part is all the time she spends inside the hospital and not out living her life.
“Cystic fibrosis, it basically affects a lot of things. It affects your lungs, digestive system, and basically you don’t have the proteins to get rid of the junk, I guess that’s a good way of explaining it, so your lungs build up with mucus and scar over and scar over and so you have a lot of problems.,” she said.
The disease has interfered with her school work, but also her social life.
“I mean it’s hard on my social life because I will be in the hospital and my friends will be doing stuff, and I will be sitting there , thinking, like I wish I could come hang out with you.”
Right now her lungs function at about 70 percent, but she spends about 16 weeks out of the year in the hospital. She will eventually need a lung transplant, but she’s not eligible to be on a donor list yet.
“I’ll go on the transport list when my lungs are at 30% function or below,” she said.
She said her life expectancy is early 40’s.
“That’s why I just have to live life to the fullest.”
This life threatening battle s Grooms goes up against every single day is hidden by her bright smile, and contagiously positive attitude.
“Well it’s mostly from support from my family and friends. They really help me with everything I do, and plus there’s a lot of people who don’t know how to stay positive that have CF, and so if you try to stay positive for them it kinds of makes it easier for other people to think they can too,” she said.
Her mother and father, Leia and Brian Grooms, will tell you their daughter is the real hero and inspiration.
“Well she credits us for things but we learn a lot from her. She is a teacher to us,” said Brian.
Even though not all her classmates are fighting for every breath like she is, she has some advice.
“What I am trying to say is the battles that each of us fight aren’t always on the outside. To able to graduate from high school for me isn’t just a celebration that I am an adult, it’s a celebration that I am alive.”
Grooms plans to go to Grand Rapids Community College for two years, and then transfer to a college of her choice. She hopes to become a therapist one day.