Spartan of the Week - Tessa Beauchamp Nov 12, 2011 - By Mark Janzen - Trinity Western University When Tessa Beauchamp officially signed with Trinity Western, it marked an enormous step towards the Holy Cross graduate’s high school dream of playing hoops at the university level.
And for Spartans coach Cheryl Jean-Paul, Beauchamp was a player and a person she was thrilled to bring into the Trinity Western women’s basketball program.
While Jean-Paul realized the challenges Beauchamp, who continues to wage what has a now become a four-year battle with cancer, would face, the rewards for both the player and the team were far too immense to miss out on.
“I really felt this was an opportunity to go beyond academics and beyond athletics and to me that’s what the Complete Champion state of mind is all about,” Jean-Paul said. “How do we live out our faith? I think we live out our faith by how we treat other people. I knew she would have a battle ahead of her but we were committed to helping her through that.”
In the summer of 2008, the sport-loving Beauchamp, who was regarded as one of the best players in the province for her age, was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer.
Shortly thereafter she went through a series of radiation treatments and a pair of surgeries that forced her to take a season off from basketball during her Grade 10 year.
But, with her cancer in remission, Beauchamp returned to the court in the fall of 2009 her Grade 11 season. Following what was successful high school season, she was invited to participate in both the U17 Provincial Team Selection Camp and the Basketball BC/Canada Basketball Centre for Performance. And that success rolled right into her Grade 12 year where she was given both the Quinn Keast Foundation “Most Complete Player” Award and Scholarship and the Gil Puder Memorial Award as the “Most Exemplary Citizen” at the 2010 HSBC Basketball Classic.
But in early 2011, just a few months before her high school graduation, Beauchamp learned the cancer had returned.
After being recruited by several schools throughout her Grade 12 campaign, suddenly her university prospects became bleak. While she still managed to help her team to a third place finish at 2011 B.C. AA Provincial Championship, her post-secondary options became limited.
But for Jean-Paul, she wasn’t going to let Beauchamp, who is still receiving treatment and because of that is still unable to attend classes or get on the court, slip through the cracks.
So she gave her a chance and the result has been a mutual blessing of life-altering proportions.
“She has done an unbelievable job, and she probably doesn’t even know this, of helping us put life into perspective,” said Sarah Cleveland, who talks to Beauchamp every day and often picks her up to bring her to watch the Spartans practice. “One of the first things that hit me hard was when I rolled my ankle right before the Mount Royal game and I came over to the sideline just so bummed. Then I looked at her and thought, ‘What the heck am I complaining about?’”
Since arriving at Trinity Western, Beauchamp became much more open about her battle with cancer and, despite her turmoil, has become a bonding force for the Spartans.
“I think it’s brought us closer in that fact that we can all rally for her in the sense that we pray for her every day and we know that there’s a teammate out there that needs us,” Cleveland said.
Jean-Paul added: “I think it’s been a really special relationship between our program and Tessa. I think Tessa has been able to put us in a position to appreciate the things we are experiencing. I think sometimes it’s hard to see past your own personal experience when you’re trying to battle through things. I think it’s easy to lose focus on the things we are supposed to appreciate. I think Tessa has really helped us balance that out.
"At first the relationship was us trying to give her something to cling to but I really think she’s given us a lot back and helped us to appreciate the journey we are on.”
In early November, both the women’s basketball team and women’s volleyball team got together with Beauchamp to learn more about her as a person and her continuing battle with cancer. Coming out of that, there were 29 players encouraged to live life to the fullest and 29 players who will be there for Beauchamp.
“It was inspiring,” Cleveland said. “It just again put it in perspective what her and her family have gone through. It was a good reinforcement for us but also a good reinforcement for her that she’s got us. She’s got Trinity Western behind her. Just because she’s not on the court doesn’t mean she’s not our teammate.”
Beauchamp is currently going through cancer treatments every two to three months in Edmonton with the goal of reducing the cancer that has moved from her brain to her neck and to other parts of her body. So far the treatments have stopped the growth of the cancer but have yet to shrink the cancer. But it’s a work in progress that has Beauchamp thinking positively.
But no matter what transpires for Beauchamp, or the court or in life, she’s already had a meaningful perspective-growing impact on her teammates, coaches and, frankly, everyone who meets her.
And if she has one message to spread, it’s this.
“Don’t take life for granted,” Beauchamp said. “Every day you should live your life to the fullest because you don’t know what’s going to happen. I can’t play sports right now, so be happy that you can.”