jess_1_180x318pxAt the age of 22, I left my home town in the south of Sydney to move to London and travel the world. I had one great year from the end of 2004 to the end of 2005 when, after thinking I just had a typical London-winter-flu, I was diagnosed with Leukaemia. I completed nearly 9 months of inpatient treatment and when I was told I could leave the hospital and continue with daily outpatient appointments, I got a chest infection in August 2006. Thinking nothing of a little cough, I didn’t react quickly enough and the fungal chest infection spread to my brain. I was in a coma in the I.C.U. for 2 weeks.

I was given a 5% chance of survival, but after a few months more in hospital I was transferred to a specialist Neuro rehabilitation Hospital in Wimbledon. I spent 3 months learning how to look after myself again – walk and talk and do every little thing that I’d always taken the ability to do for granted.

Jess – New Year’s Eve, London 2004

Currently I am a 27 year old woman who lives independently in a Department of Housing property designed for people with disabilities. I am studying full time with Open Universities Australia – Visual Art and am beginning my 3rd and final year now with Distinction averages.

Parts of my body retain the affects of the chemotherapy and the cranial radiotherapy I had. My bones are no longer my friends and I often find it difficult to do small things like hang wet clothes on the line, or cook myself dinner. Sometimes I forget how to tie my shoelaces. Independently I do forms of neuro rehabilitation every day. I think studying at a tertiary level is also reactivating some of the brain cells that were damaged by the infection.

Most days I have a positive outlook and get excited about this second chance. I am currently investigating Post-graduate study and looking towards the future which is suddenly brighter than it ever was before.

Photo of Jess in intensive care
Jess in the Intensive Care Unit 2006