Published in The Sun-Herald on June 25, 2016
Former Home and Away star Tessa James was just 23 when she was diagnosed with cancer.
For a health-oriented young person with a love of exercise and nourishing food, nobody expected that Ms James would fall ill.
Suddenly, the things she most valued – her health and fitness – were under threat.
“Being unwell is a very debilitating thing and I don’t think that unless you’ve gone through that you realise how debilitating it really is,” she said. “You take for granted getting up in the morning and going for a run.”
Two years earlier, Ms James’ father, Steve, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma – which is incurable.
He was still undergoing treatment when Ms James received her own diagnosis of Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer of the blood, in 2014.
This came as an added blow in an already devastating time.
“I think with something like cancer, it’s the shock,” she said. “For every individual coming up against something like that, it’s always going to be different for each person.”
Ms James dealt with myriad emotions following her diagnosis, but she knew she had to use all her strength to fight it.
“For me, it was a process. The plan of attack was to survive, and whatever that entailed, I was willing to do,” she said.
She endured 12 rounds of chemotherapy over six months, and in early 2015, Ms James was told that she was in remission.
“It was amazing,” she said. “That’s what you want. That feeling, it was huge relief and it was exciting that I was able to start a new chapter of my life and move on.”
Ms James has always been a runner, and this year she is representing the Westpac Foundation in the Sun-Herald City2Surf 14km run.
“I really love just getting up and going for a run,” she said. “If that’s all I’m able to do for that day, that’s something I’m really proud of.”
A resident of Sydney’s northern beaches, James says that she has been focused on training and preparation in the lead up to the event.
“There’s a similar run from Dee Why to Newport,” she said. “It’s a similar distance. In general, I usually run about 8-to-10 kms. I also stretch a lot, which I think is really important as a runner, and do a lot of pilates and yoga as a contrast.”
She says that she’s also ‘roped in’ her father to join City2Surf.
“Health and fitness is a huge part of my life and I think it’s really important to encourage that in men and women,” she said. “It’s something that I feel really strongly about.”
James’ cancer journey has led her to realise the importance of her body and be grateful for health and life.
“The main thing that I learnt, what I live by, is just be kind to yourself,” she said. “That’s not just for people going through cancer, but for everybody. If you look after your body and mind, then you’re the best version of yourself.”
The Sun-Herald City2Surf will be held in Sydney on August 14, 2016.
Register online at: www.city2surf.com.au