Jess was living out her dream when a cancer diagnosis changed everything.
She had just finished her bachelors degree and was working as a lifeguard at Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
But Jess began to experience hearing and vision loss, and strange spells of dizziness and though she didn't think much of it at first, her symptoms progressively got worse.
Jess met with her GP upon returning home to Australia.
A life-changing event
Jess was sent to hospital for an MRI immediately after her GP heard her symptoms. The MRI showed the cause of her hearing and vision loss. It was a mass on her brain.
The mass could not surgically be removed but the doctors were able to place a shunt in her brain to relieve the pressure the mass was causing.
During the procedure her doctors also took a biopsy of the mass. Jess and her family waited anxiously for the results.
When the biopsy results finally came in her surgeon informed her it was stage four Glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer, and it was terminal.
"I was suddenly trying to understand a cancer diagnosis."
"When something like this happens, it really makes you appreciate the time you have with the people you love."
Jess had to wait for the scars from her shunt surgery to heal before she could begin cancer treatment. As radiation therapy wouldn't begin for some weeks her mum organised a weekend getaway with family and friends.
"Seeing my family and partner react to the news was the hardest thing. It was truly heart-breaking."
Jess began treatment. Initially, it was an isolating experience for Jess. Her friends were busy with work and study, and when they eventually could catch-up she would worry about how they would react to hearing she had cancer.
Finding people who just 'get it'
Jess was able to connect with her local Canteen office where a Canteen staff member invited her to a program.
"It was so nice to be around people who understood what I was going through. It was honestly a relief, to know that I didn't have to explain things."
Through Canteen she was able to meet other young people who also understand what it is like to go through a cancer experience. Canteen has been able to offer support to her sister as well.
"Being with other people who understood what I was going through was really extraordinary. At Canteen, we're all quite open about our cancer experience and it’s such an incredible environment to be in. We're so supported by staff that if we ever have any problems, we can always go to them."
Leading the way for others
Jess has stepped into a leadership role at Canteen and now advocates for other young people going through a cancer experience.
"Since being diagnosed, I have had to stop working and studying, and I lost a lot of purpose in my life. Canteen has given me a new purpose, and a way for me to control my cancer. I am also grateful that Canteen offers support to my siblings. I hope that as a youth ambassador, I can help others going through their own cancer experience."