In late February, two months after giving birth to her son, 27-year-old Tessa James marked three years in remission from Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system with which she was diagnosed aged 23. She has spoken before about her and Nate’s tough decision not to delay her cancer treatment in order to undergo fertility procedures and freeze her eggs, so hearing her in mum mode now feels even more poignant.
“[My son] looks exactly like my husband, but he’s me in that he just goes from 0 to 100 and then straight back down again and crashes,” she laughs. Tessa’s easygoing energy is fuelled by her love of coffee, sure, but also her focus on nutrition, fitness and family, as well an appreciation that life can change in an instant. As she reveals here, it’s all just part of the journey.
“Going through something like [cancer] completely strips you of who you are, not only physically but mentally. Working your way back from something like that takes time. [My last chemotherapy session] was a huge thing, but it didn’t end there. I was down in the negative with my immune system and I really wasn’t well, so it was a big celebration to get past that point, but it took me a good year or two of working on myself to get better. I really used food and exercise as a way to improve, and that’s what I continue to do with my life. I always try to make good choices with food, because I know it nourishes and fuels my body. I focus on those things because I can control them."
“Since I’ve had my son, I’ve started doing intermittent fasting. I don’t eat until about 10:30am, 11 o’clock, but I have a good-size meal then, and another snack or meal, then dinner. I don’t snack a whole lot, but, if I do, it’ll be almonds or dark chocolate. I do have a lot of coffee. I don’t like to wear heaps of make-up or use a lot of products, but I use food to fuel me and fix my skin. It all comes from the gut. I haven’t had dairy for four or five years, and I think that’s helped my skin a lot and just works for my body. I don’t really eat any meat. I eat a lot of fish and fresh vegetables and high-fat foods, because I enjoy them and they sit well with my body. That’s at the moment – but it could change!”
Fitness-wise, I don’t live far from Barry’s Bootcamp. That’s one of my favourite [workouts]. It’s treadmill and weights, which I find is a good combination. It’s pretty unforgiving, but you feel really good afterwards! Since I’ve had my son and we have moved to LA, I’ve changed up my workouts a lot. I used to run pretty consistently, but now I do a lot of weights and running and yoga. I guess in a typical week, I’d usually do Barry’s three or four times, and then I would run long distance the other days – I like to average about eight or 10km. If I can, I’ll squeeze a yoga session in, but we just take it day by day.
Read our full, exclusive chat with Tessa – including her experience of becoming a mum and kicking career goals – in this month's Women's Health magazine, on sale Monday September 3.