Her Story: Jessica Cliche

Motivating Stories from Local Women

Every woman has a story to tell, and no two stories are alike. Meet the women who have persevered through challenges and tribulations and come out the other side stronger than ever. These unique individuals have seen their fair share of adversity but continue to inspire those around them with the lessons they have learned and their love of life. Read on for four truly motivating stories by the women who experienced them firsthand.

Photography by Emily Long / Photos taken on location at The Westin Chattanooga

 

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Do you have a story to share? Click here to tell us how you have experienced adversity and continue to maintain a positive outlook on life.

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Jessica Cliche walking and smiling outside the Westin in Chattanooga

 

Jessica Cliche

East Chattanooga

I was born in the United States and moved to Guatemala when I was 4 years old. My father is a surgeon, my mother a nurse, and I learned early on the value of helping people. Guatemala is a beautiful country, but many people there are extremely poor. They struggle with access to health care and education, and they deal with social issues and language barriers that I didn’t have to. My father made sure I was aware of the many struggles around me, as well as my privileged life.

When I hit my mid-20s, I started to feel restless and unhappy; I needed a change. I was ready to move and experience something new, so I moved back to the United States. I worked in restaurants, schools, did babysitting jobs – anything I could do to make ends meet. For the first time in my life, I experienced the challenge of communicating in English, a language I wasn’t proficient in because the language I used most was Spanish. I was someone nobody knew, starting all over in a society I didn’t understand.

One year after moving here, I was diagnosed with systemic lupus, and the prognosis was not good. But I decided to stay here, because I was not going to be controlled by a disease. Lupus will challenge you in many ways, forcing you to navigate the complicated medical system and become your own advocate.

Lupus doesn’t define me, but it has enabled me to truly appreciate my health, my body, and my life. I learned to be resilient and recognize better days are ahead. I also understand the value of help and helping others. I now guide and support others with their struggles through a nonprofit community organization. I believe there is a lesson behind the setbacks, and it all depends on the perspective we choose to have and the lessons we want to learn. The person you see struggling today may be you tomorrow. It’s strange; the people who I thought were so different from me were more like me than I could have ever imagined. HS

 

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