I created the Albury RunWalk4BrainCancer because I had this amazing person in my life called Tessa. Let me tell you about Tessa…

Firstly Tessa loved Survivor and the Bachelor, but don’t hold that against her. We first met at College in Sydney. Tessa was from Cairns and had moved to Sydney to study medicine. She loved working with kids and wanted to specialise in paediatrics. We crossed paths here and there whilst living under the same (very large college) roof in Sydney but it was in 2014 that I became great friends with Tessa.

In 2014, Tessa moved to Albury to study at Albury’s UNSW Medical School and I had just moved back to start physiotherapy at Charles Sturt University. Tessa became a great friend and we would regularly catch up for coffee, lunch and walks. She loved walking along the Murray down at Noreuil Park or along the track at East Hill Lookout. This was our time to vent about the stress of University and giggle over our latest boy gossip. Tessa was a great listener, she had this calm aura around her. You felt safe, and never stupid talking to Tessa.

Tessa loved swimming laps at the Albury pool and playing soccer with her St Pats team. She totally immersed herself in whatever activity she was doing. We discovered a mutual love for puns and elephants! Tessa was also an amazing photographer and had one of those big scary looking cameras that when handled by the right person, took spectacular photos. Tessa was one of those people and so volunteered to snap all of the photos at my 21st!

In 2015, Tessa had just moved back to Sydney for her fourth year of University. I still remember her describing this horrific back pain she was experiencing, she was taking Nurofen and Panadol multiple times a night with no relief. She had nausea, was feeling exhausted and looking run down. I had learnt the red flags for someone experiencing back pain, Tessa had too. However, you don’t let your mind go there when it’s someone you love.

I saw a few odd things on social media and texted Tessa in a panic. I soon learnt from Tessa’s Dad Alan, (who I had never met or spoken to before) that Tessa had just undergone major brain surgery within 24 hours of having an MRI. She had a brain tumour that had metastasized to her spine. I was in shock. I immediately purchased an elephant and posted it to be by her hospital bed in Sydney.

Despite the pain Tessa felt throughout her treatment, she continued to be her positive self. She still managed to light up a room with her smile, presence and puns. She would want to know how you were and would listen to your problems, no matter how small they seemed in comparison to what she was going through. We never really discussed the medical side of things, as I think when she had visitors she just wanted to feel normal and talk about what every other 21 year old would discuss. She started making Instagram posts featuring her IV pole that would make you laugh. A person who has the ability to make others laugh when they are going through something like that is a very special person.

Shortly after her 22nd birthday and under two years since her diagnosis, Tessa passed away peacefully in her home in Cairns. I can relive every minute of the day I learnt the news Tessa had died from the second I saw the message from her Dad during a University class. It’s still a very surreal feeling to have lost her. It’s horrible to think that there are many other friends, siblings and parents that know the same feeling because of what brain cancer has done to their loved ones. Tessa did not deserve brain cancer. No one does.

We all have amazing people in our lives and as it turns out, brain cancer can happen to anyone. Come along for a jog or walk in the sunshine and with your help, we may be able to raise over $10,000 for the “Tessas” of the future. To improve their treatment, to improve their statistics and maybe even… Cure Brain Cancer.

Details for the Albury RunWalk4BrainCancer:
Date: Sunday 20th October
Time: Registration from 8am, 5km Run/Walk starts at 9am
Venue: Albury Swim Centre Car Park (on the grass)

-Sheila Smith