Jess Selwood knew she wasnt well, but shed put it down to being exhausted and home sick.The West Australian was 21 when she spent five months working as a lifeguard at Disney World in the US.
When her partner Kilian met her in Hungary after two-and-a-half months apart, he told her something wasn’t right.
“I had deteriorated so much,” the Ambassador for Canteen’s Christmas appeal, now 23, said.
“On the plane ride home, on the declaration form I had to fill out, he told me my handwriting was atrocious.
“My hearing and eye sight was really bad. When we came through the gates mum and dad were waiting there and I couldn’t see them in front of me.”
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Jess went to the GP the next day who also immediately knew something wasn’t right and sent her straight to the hospital for a MRI.
She had been told to get one in the US but being a “bit dramatic” when it came to being sick and at risk of sending her parents a big hospital bill, she tossed the referral out.
Doctors discovered Jess had a tumour the size of a fist in her brain.
“As soon as I had surgery where they put a shunt in, my hearing started coming back,” she said.
“I remember the day it came back completely so distinctly. You know when you’re under water? It’s like I came up for a breath. It was great.”
Jess was diagnosed with stage four glioblastoma, which usually has a life expectancy of 12 months. It’s now been 22 months since her diagnosis, having been treated with radiation and chemotherapy she will remain on until it stops working.
The treatment she’s having usually goes for 12 rounds but she’s up to round 23.
After her initial radiation her tumour had shrunk to half its size.
Jess had lost a lot of direction and purpose when she was diagnosed but decided to join Canteen when she was ready to start socialising again.
She joined the leadership team and met everyone at the launch but then the pandemic hit and everyone went online.
Now she’s looking forward to 2021 and doing what she can to make a difference in the time that she has.
“We did not think I was going to make it to this year,” she said.
“I’m in disbelief but grateful to be here so I just want to make an impact where I can
“I want to make my family proud so that when does cancer does take me they can go, ‘yep, she had cancer but look at what she did with it’.
“I feel like I’m contributing to something. It’s a way for me to control my cancer rather than it controlling me.”
Canteen’s Christmas appeal raises money for its SPACE program which stands for Surviving, Prospering and Adjusting to the Cancer Experience.
“Canteen’s new SPACE program creates the ultimate safe space for young people who are going through cancer treatment,” Sandy Cham, general manager of services at Canteen said.
“The pilot of our newest therapeutic program was incredibly successful, and we hope to add it to our regular calendar of programs and recreation days from early next year.
“What’s wonderful about SPACE is the immediate sense of connection between the young people involved as they reflect on how cancer has impacted them physically, socially and emotionally. SPACE really supports these young people as they explore their values and strengths while learning new coping skills and techniques.”
To donate to the appeal click here

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