My girls attend an exceptionally awesome elementary school. They have made great friends. Friends that are kind. I attribute those qualities to the parents that are guiding their little people to be good humans. I usually walk my kids into their classroom in the morning and that time always brings small talk with other parents in passing. There was one particular mom who although we had never been formally introduced, I would look forward to our interaction. She was never without a smile on her face and always had a joyful, positive spirit to her. She was warm towards my little ones and always took the time to ask me how I was doing. Our kids ended up not being in the same class this year but they were both asked to try out for the math team after school. I was so happy to see the same mom friend while we waited for our 4th graders to get out. I formally introduced myself and felt like an idiot because I had taken too long to do so. Her name is not a common one. Subsequently, I had that feeling that I think everyone experiences when they learn a new name and are terrified they are going to forget it. I'll be completely honest (and she is now learning this reading this now :), It took several ask arounds as to what Jack's step moms name was and for me to implement "operation:special name remedy". I finally just asked for her number and had her type in her name in my phone for correct spelling.
(And now you all have the life hack to how Emily remembers names because her 3 children took her memory when she expelled them from her body...You are entirely welcome.)
With the welcoming of the phone number, we ended up having a weekly coffee date while we waited for our big kids to get out of math team. I ended up learning how truly extraordinary this woman was. As I started to get to know her better, I asked what she did to stay in such great shape. She laughed and said, "Nothing". Me being ever conscious of keeping my body healthy and the eternal struggle of trying to lose weight, was jealous. "You must have great genetics!" I said. Once again, she laughed and much to my surprise, I learned that there was a much deeper reason for why she was the size she was. She was a cancer survivor. A stomach cancer survivor. After initially feeling like an idiot, I was immediately stunned and knew I was in the presence of a true warrior. A few more coffee dates later, I asked if she would be so generous as to tell her story and be a part of my project. She agreed. Sharing her story was something that she took pride in doing. I told her my idea for what I wanted to do in her lifestyle session. Understandably so, she was hesitant. The photo part was where she was nervous but once again, I was truly humbled by her humanity. Although it was very difficult for her to show her scars, she thought her vulnerability would help in the healing process of her journey and perhaps for others. She dove in, head first. Her bravery is truly an inspiration to all and I am honored to be called her friend. She recently received the news that she is still cancer free and continues to spread her light in the world. I present my friend, Irasema.
What is your name and how do we know each other?
"Irasema Partida-Chavez and our kids go to school together."
How old are you?
What are you currently doing with yourself?
"Parenting. And I’m a founding board member for a non-profit organization HOPE for Stomach Cancer."
Are you where you hoped you would be? If not/ Why? If so-what do you love about it and could you see yourself doing anything else?
"No. I definitely thought I would still be working. Am I happy where I am? Definitely. I can be home with my kids and really focus my energy on my family and my children. I can also continue to bring awareness to stomach cancer."
Women are becoming a resilient sound that cannot be silenced. What are you doing to contribute that sound?
"I think I am raising my daughter to be strong. To use her voice. To be a leader. To give her the feeling and ability to know that she can do anything. I never want her to feel like she needs a man in her life to feel valued."
What is something you learned from a younger age that has stuck with you?
"I learned at a very young age that your life can change overnight and we shouldn’t take it for granted. I lost my mom in car accident when I was 9 years old. My life as I knew it was never the same. I could have spent my whole life being angry but that was never going to bring her back. And as I got older I realized everyone has hardships and we shouldn’t use it as a crutch. You can either sit and dwell on all the bad or we can dust ourselves off and keep going. "
Who is an individual who made a profound impact on you and why?
"My BAD ASS wife (can I say that?!?!) lol!
No, but really, not only is she an amazing detective but she is the most loving, honest, hardest working, non-complaining human I have ever met. She literally has stopped her whole life at one time or another to be by my side. I’ll never know how I got so lucky."
What is a weakness or something that exposes your vulnerability and what do you do to combat/embrace it in order to grow?
"UGH....being vulnerable. I hate to be vulnerable. I honestly avoid it at all costs. I don’t like that it makes me feel weak. I think it’s because I’ve spent my whole life trying to be strong. It’s clearly something I need to work on."
What is something that you want to accomplish and what are you doing to get to that place, if anything?
"For me, I want to continue to be a voice and an advocate for stomach cancer. I was diagnosed in 2015. May 11, 2015. I had a partial Gastorectomy in June 2015. I started chemo 8 weeks later after my surgery. I did 2 rounds of chemo. I did 25 rounds of radiation. That was everyday for 5 weeks. It was awful. This was followed by 2 more rounds of chemo after that. I was clean for 8 months and then I had a recurrence in 2016. I then had a full Gastorectomy in Nov. 2016. Now I am clean. I have scans fairly often and iron treatments. 3 years and NED. It’s scary knowing that I am clean because there is always the fear that it could come back. I don’t know how people can just pretend that it didn’t happen. It’s hard to forget. The anxiety of it coming back is not fun. Stomach cancer has a 30% of survival rate so basically, 3 out 10 patients will beat the disease. I know I am very fortunate and blessed to have caught the stomach cancer in its earlier stages so for me, I’ve always wanted to give back. Whether it’s helping someone to get through an ugly day or being someone to whom you can vent. As patients we feel like we need to be strong for everyone else. I want to help with helping others to understand their new body because there are changes every day. I feel like it’s the silliest things. For instance, letting a patient know that one day they will be able to eat a piece of sushi again. When you’re deep in treatment you are only able to digest so many things. You’re confined to liquids etc. Showing someone that there is hope by relating to their frustrations and letting them know they are not alone in the journey."
And now..a few questions to lighten the mood...
Dogs or Cats?
"Both but honestly, cats. They’re just easier. I love my grumpy cat."
Cheeseburgers or Salad?
"Salad. (pre and post.) Although I should eat a cheeseburger...but give me a salad any given day."
Beach or Mountains?
"Probably the beach. I feel like I can let everything go at the beach."
Sweet or Salty?
"Sweet. I will take an ice cream, piece of cake...a boba any given day of the week over fries."
Lose all of your old memories or never make new ones?
"Lose all my old memories."
Disney..or is there any alternative?
"Oh Disney. I love Disney. I’m a Disney freak. I think we’ve had passes since 2001 since my daughter was born."
What is a fun fact that someone may not know about you?
"I DON'T HAVE A STOMACH!!!"
And the final two important questions...
What is a common misconception about you that people make based on your appearance?
"People always ask how often I workout. Lol!" (Guilty)
What is your truth and how do you personify strength?
"My truth is I AM a Stomach Cancer Warrior! This journey hasn’t been easy. It has tested me, my faith, my family, my friendships. And look at me 5 years later and I’m still standing. If I could it, anyone can do it! You can’t give up. Never stop fighting. Never lose HOPE!"
You have inspired me. What about yourself do you hope to put out in order to inspire other young people?
" I will continue to share my story with anyone who is willing to listen. Hopefully I can inspire some, and help others not feel alone on this journey."