KISS CANCER GOODBYE!
Jess Weller’s story
Getting diagnosed with a life threatening illness is never something you expect to happen, especially when you are young, healthy and on your OE on the other side of the world.
Jess Weller was living the Kiwi traveller’s dream in London, working as a teacher and travelling Europe. She was fit, active and carefree, and the world was her oyster. She was in her ‘happy place.’ Four months into her visa, in June 2013, Jess was diagnosed with Stage 3, aggressive breast cancer. She was just 27 years old.
“I was scared. I knew nothing about breast cancer,” she says. After eight rounds of chemotherapy, her golden mane was gone and she felt lost, wondering whether she would ever get back to her ‘happy place.’
One day, at her teaching job, she demonstrated a forward roll to a class of 7-and 8-year-olds. Her wig fell off, revealing her bald head. One child asked what had happened to her hair, and she replied: “I got really sick and I lost it.” That was a turning point in her healing process, and a catalyst for breaking down the fear that surrounds cancer. Talking about her experience is what gave her purpose.
On completion of treatment and returning home to New Zealand, Jess founded The WELLer Network to educate young New Zealanders about cancer and to encourage those who’ve lived through a health challenge to share their stories and empower young people to have healthy conversations that could save their lives.
“Sharing my experience is a privilege, I’m lucky to be here. It is so important that we embrace talking about difficult subjects like cancer because a life threatening diagnosis can happen at any time,” says Jess. “I try to use a little bit of humour when I speak. You never know how an audience will respond but if you have a bit of a laugh you can shine a light on the subject and have a really healthy conversation that helps to change the fear around the disease and that’s the key to what we are trying to do.”
With creating The WELLer Network, Jess has delivered content to educate and inspire thousands of young New Zealanders regarding the prevention and awareness of cancer – in particular breast health and also speaks about the patient experience, resilience, mindset and emotional intelligence. Jess helps to promote healthy messages regarding being breast aware from age 20 and to know your normal so you can identify what isn’t – any changes, see a medical professional immediately. Early detection is your best protection.