Miss Tessa Smith was invited to Lakefield College School on September 16 to talk about her life as a two-time cancer survivor and to encourage and inspire the 350 plus students, two of which are pictured with Tessa (centre). Grade 12 student Sophie Peters on the left, and grade 12 student Clara Seitz is on the right.
Guest Speaker Tessa Smith inspires LCS students
September 22, 2017
BY TERRY GILLIS
On Friday morning (September 16), Lakefield College School (LCS) students and teachers listened to guest speaker, Tessa Smith relate her story of surviving cancer, not once, but twice in her nineteen years and to encourage students to continue the Terry Fox Run at the school annually.
Tessa Smith was diagnosed with Bilateral Retinoblastoma (cancer of the retinas) when she was 3 and a half months old. After chemotherapy blew the tumor apart in her right eye, it was removed so that the cancer wouldn’t spread through her optic nerve and into her brain. After another round of chemo and a number of laser treatments for her left eye, she was cancer free...until she was thirteen years old.
At thirteen, Tessa was once again diagnosed with cancer. This time the cancer was in her left leg. She was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma (bone cancer), the same disease that took the life of her hero, Terry Fox.
Tessa told the four hundred students and teachers in the packed Bryon Jones Theatre that, “as the cancer invaded my leg, above my knee, with the tumor sitting right on a blood vessel, amputation and resections became my only option.”
Tessa underwent a thirteen hour surgery and seven months of high-dose chemotherapy.
Tessa told the LCS audience that all the while she was going through her surgery and chemo, she remembered the courage and strength Terry Fox possessed during his fight and she “hoped she was able to portray even the smallest portion of those same traits” while she was fighting her own battle with cancer.
Tessa is now an energetic, enthusiastic cancer-free nineteen year old. She is the youngest advice columnist to write for a daily newspaper and is attending Trent University and working toward a degree in journalism.
She takes time out of her hectic schedule to encourage and inspire people to support cancer research and get involved with the Terry Fox run.
Mom Ann is always by her daughter’s side during guest speaker appearances and is as awed by Terry Fox and what he accomplished for cancer awareness and research as she is with her daughter and her winning fight for a cancer-free life.
Before leaving the Bryon Jones Theatre, Tessa and her mother challenged the auditorium full of high school students to reach their fund raising goal by offering an incentive: Tessa will come and hang out with the students for a day in her pj’s and without her hair done or her make-up on. Mom Ann even suggested that the kids were welcome to throw pie in her daughter’s face if they so chose.
The audience all agreed that they would make $5,000 their goal and assured their guests that they would reach it.
Following the speech, students gathered in the grove outside to await instructions for the first Terry Fox run to be organized at LCS since 2009.
More than three hundred and fifty kids ran or walked the 2 km course around the LCS campus in support of cancer research on Friday morning.