How to describe Tessa? This is not an easy task as there were so many sides to her. From a very young age, Tessa was interested in everyone and everything. She especially loved talking to adults and she was always interested in what they had to say. People were naturally drawn to Tessa because of her infectious smile and warm and happy disposition. Her mom used to say Tessa had an “old soul” because she always seemed wiser than her years. Tessa’s strength through adversity grew at an early age.
When Tessa was almost three, her party dress caught on fire while she was sitting in front of a gas fireplace. She suffered third degree burns to over twenty percent of her body and spent thirty days at Vancouver General and Children’s Hospitals, while receiving skin grafts. Third degree burns hurt the most when they are healing but Tessa usually suffered in silence and still always had a smile for everyone. She healed quickly and although she was scarred, the scars never seemed to bother her. Tessa was invited to attend the B.C. Firefighters Burn Camp and she attended the camp from the age of six to eighteen. It was here where Tessa made many lasting friendships with firefighters, nurses and fellow campers.
Throughout her school years, Tessa was a very high achiever in everything she did. Her marks were consistently high and she worked on perfecting her skill in basketball. Whenever Tessa didn’t make a team, she would be disappointed but worked even harder to make the team the following year. Tessa was a wonderful friend as well. She was always willing to tutor her friends and always happy to help however she could. Tessa’s spirit was generous and kind and because of this, people liked to be around her.
Tessa played in the Steve Nash co-ed basketball league for four years and then began playing on the B.C. Provincial teams as well as her high school team. Tessa won many MVP, most inspirational and all-star awards during her high school career. Tessa’s incredible struggle began after a basketball game at the B.C. Catholic Tournament during her grade nine year. She played a game and after the game suffered a migraine. The next day, the migraine was gone but her balance was not right. She still tried to play in the next game but her balance was so compromised, it forced her off the court. In the days that followed, Tessa slowly started to feel better but her mom decided to keep the specialist appointment just to be sure, and after that initial visit her life was never the same. The doctors found a growth in Tessa’s inner ear and immediately ordered a Cat Scan. Over the next four years, Tessa was subjected to two surgeries, which resulted in the loss of hearing in her right ear, three rounds of radiation and three visits to Edmonton for a specialized radiation treatment.
In grade eleven, while recovering from radiation treatment, she was back on the basketball court. She played with an eye patch (a side effect from the radiation), and with no hearing in her right ear, still managed to hit threes! During her radiation treatments, Tessa insisted on watching her volleyball team play and she would lie on the floor and cheer them on, despite feeling incredibly sick.
Tessa’s tumor went from being benign to malignant and her diagnosis was constantly changed. In the end, her tumor was found to be an extremely rare cancer that does not respond to any type of treatment. Tessa fought bravely throughout, never questioning why her? She never complained, despite the severe neck pain she suffered cause by the tumor pressing on her brain stem. The only time she spoke up was when she quietly stated to her doctor, “I don’t want to die”. Tessa and her family never gave up hope. Tessa’s faith was strong and so many people were praying for her. But God had a different plan for her and Tessa never questioned it. Those who know Tessa, were blessed and realize what a special individual she was .This website has been created to honor her memory and to share her story with those who did not get the chance to meet this amazingly strong and beautiful person. The Foundation attempts to give back to others, just as Tessa gave the gifts of friendship and love.