Student draws support from friends in FIGHT Club
Byrnes High’s Cierra Hill says she relies on her peers for support, but the reality is, they draw support and encouragement from her.
Hill is a senior and in her second year with the school’s FIGHT (Friends Into Getting Healthy Together) Club. Together they exercise, learn about healthy eating habits, enjoy recreation and develop deep friendships. The club has proven to be a blessing to so many students in its six years of existence. For Hill, though, FIGHT Club has been a lifeline following her diagnosis with multiple sclerosis.
She didn’t know much about it, but her mother’s reaction told her that she was up against something serious.
“My mom, her reaction to it made me realize it was something bad because she started crying,” she said. “But I tried to stay strong. But that night it hit me and I was just like ‘Oh my God, this must be really severe.’ And I started researching it and just realized how life changing it was.”
While the disease has certainly altered life for Hill, classmates say her infectious personality has not changed.
“She’s just always happy,” friend and club member Allison Stewart said. “You wouldn’t know she has MS if she didn’t tell you. She’s always optimistic, always happy and her personality hasn’t changed since her diagnosis.”
Another friend, Tatiyana Davis, says Hill is a leader, encouraging the FIGHT Club to pursue goals and live healthier.
FIGHT Club instructor Debbie Holcombe sees that in Hill, too.
“Even before she was diagnosed with MS she was a leader in our group,” Holcombe said. “She’s very quiet, very soft-spoken, but she’s the epitome of what a teacher would want or a coach would want in a student or student athlete. Even though we’re not a sport it’s very much run like a team.”
Last Friday, some members of that team visited 9 Round for an exhaustive yet enjoyable 30-minute workout. There, Holcombe and Byrnes teacher Craig Weick helped facilitate students through their fitness time. Weick commented about the effectiveness of FIGHT CLUB.
“I think it’s a way for students who are going through a hard time or want to work out, get in better shape or lose weight or it’s a way to hang out with friends. It’s a stress reliever. Keep their mind off things. There’s just so many different things you can do with this club. And that’s why when Coach Holcombe told me about it, I was like ‘Of course Ill be a part of it.”
In order for students to participate, they must come two days a week. Holcombe said initially she was skeptical about the possibility of the program being successful.
“Getting teenagers to stay after school voluntarily, I didn’t think it would work, but it has worked,” she said.
For this, Hill is thankful.
“Really the fight club literally gives me encouragement, and they help support me,” she said. “Basically I know they’re like my second family. If I need anything they’re there for me.”
Friends like Stewart and Davis are thankful, too.
“I met her (Hill) through Fight Club,” Stewart said. “Without this club I wouldn’t have met her and she’s my best friend.”
To support her, about 60 of those friends attended Saturday’s MS Walk in Spartanburg’s Cleveland Park. Hill was the keynote speaker. She opened up about her thoughts after being diagnosed and her struggles with symptoms that include dizziness, headaches, vision problems, nerve pain and other difficulties. Still, listeners also heard about a young woman’s resiliency.
“It wasn’t until my mom and coach Holcombe suggested I share my news with Fight Club that I began to believe everything would be okay,” Hill told those in attendance. “February 27, 2016 I attended the LifePoint 5K in Charleston, and I pushed myself to jog the entire 3.1 miles and finished in 34.51, one minute and 27 seconds faster than my junior year. This was the day I realized MS wouldn’t keep me from doing what I want to do in my life.”
Hill wants to be a pediatrician, and with her determination, there is little doubt she will achieve that goal while also being an encouragement to others. In the meantime, though, she’ll continue to rely on friends who have fought with her all along.
“They were here with me before I was diagnosed and they’re still her with me.”
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