Tessa finding her voice at Flinders thanks to you

Posted 13 Jul 2022

The Flinders Cancer Wellness Centre is a place of refuge for Tessa Bremner OAM and husband Ian Macdonald.

Tessa was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2021. The news shocked the accomplished theatre star, who had originally presented to the doctor because of a bad knee stemming from her career in performing arts, which started as a singer, dancer, and actor in London’s West End.

After attending to Tessa’s knee, the doctor checked a small lump on her breast and sent her for an urgent mammogram. Before she knew it, Tessa underwent a mastectomy and started chemotherapy.

“Suddenly, I became a woman with cancer and you’re just struggling to stay alive,” Tessa said.

Tessa faced long periods of time away from her home on Kangaroo Island to undergo treatment. She took leave from her job as an opera director and Ian, who is a musician and set designer, dedicated himself to being a full-time carer for his wife.

Tessa, who received an Order of Australia Medal in 2014 in recognition of a lifelong career in the performing arts, would brighten the mood of everyone in the room when she attended the Flinders Infusion Suite (FIS) for treatment.

“Cancer creates a tremendous fear. When I have a needle put in me, I like to sing – it became quite well known in FIS,” Tessa said.

“You’re walking into a huge room ... no one is smiling – everyone is in fear. When I started to sing, people started to talk and smile.”

In between treatment, Tessa would rest and sometimes nap in the Flinders Cancer Wellness Centre, which was made possible thanks to past supporters of Dry July, along with support from the Dry July Foundation and Mix 102.3.

Ian also found comfort in the Centre, finding support and someone to talk to. The Dry July Room is an integral part of the Cancer Wellness Centre, offering people a place to escape from the stresses of appointments and treatments.

Through the Cancer Wellness Centre, Tessa accesses meditation, music and yoga over the phone and online. Funds raised through Dry July supported music and interpretive dance in the Centre last year, and enabled people to take part in online meditation when face-to-face contact wasn’t possible because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Every time I do meditation, I feel I can overcome cancer. I have someone there to do it with me. The Cancer Wellness Centre and its programs absorb fear, and all of the people are unbelievably great at what they do,” Tessa said.


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