“I try not to look back”

Mod­el­ling fresh sum­mer flo­rals, ac­tor Tessa James catches up with Stel­lar to chat about let­ting go, con­quer­ing can­cer and life as a new mother

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Stellar - - Contents - Pho­tog­ra­phy DAMIAN BEN­NETT Styling KELLY HUME In­ter­view SASKIA TILLERS

As she mod­els fresh sum­mer flo­rals for Stel­lar, ac­tor Tessa James opens up about con­quer­ing can­cer, learn­ing to go with the flow and life as a new mum.

Tak­ing time out does not come nat­u­rally to Tessa James. Itchy feet and big dreams, cou­pled with the fact that she “has a lot of trou­ble sit­ting still”, have meant that James has led life at an un­re­lent­ing pace – un­til re­cently. Since be­com­ing a mother at the end of last year, 27-year-old James has been forced to slow down, re­lin­quish con­trol and sit out a few rounds. “You can plan that you’ve got enough food and nap­pies, but even then stuff goes wrong,” she tells Stel­lar. “So you just have to go with the flow. Mother­hood is the best. It’s hard work, don’t get me wrong, and is such a huge change, but in the best way pos­si­ble. I just feel set­tled, I don’t need to do any­thing else.”

Her bound­less en­ergy is a qual­ity James now recog­nises in her 11-mon­thold son Saynt. “He’s so de­ter­mined,” she says with a laugh. “He just goes hard all day then crashes at night. I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re go­ing to have some beef one day be­cause he’s ex­actly like me.’ He looks like my hus­band, but I think his mind works like mine.”

For the past year, James and her hus­band, re­tired NRL foot­baller Nate Myles, 33, have been based in Los An­ge­les, coming back to Aus­tralia ev­ery now and then to check in with their fam­i­lies, and pur­sue “a few lit­tle ven­tures”. James ex­plains that af­ter Saynt’s birth, she and Myles de­cided to “work it so that we could have a year of just be­ing with our son and hav­ing that time to­gether. I’m re­ally happy with spend­ing time just as a fam­ily.”

Step­ping away from work is a change of pace that has been a long time coming for for­mer teen star James. Start­ing off as a 15-year- old in Neigh­bours, she hit star­dom in Home And Away, lay­ing the ground­work for a suc­cess­ful

“I don’t let what hap­pened de­fine me. It adds to the per­son you are”

ca­reer in the act­ing world. How­ever, James is the first to tell you things never quite seem to go to plan. At just 23, hav­ing dis­cov­ered a lump above her col­lar­bone, she was di­ag­nosed with Hodgkin’s lym­phoma. James put ev­ery­thing on hold to un­dergo ur­gent treat­ment and chemo­ther­apy. “Ini­tially your re­ac­tion is ‘What’s go­ing on? Why me?’ But I quickly snapped out of that,” James says. “I wasn’t pos­i­tive, not the whole time, for sure. But you just have to keep go­ing be­cause things aren’t go­ing to go the way you think all the time.”

Hop­ing to con­nect or in­spire oth­ers go­ing through some­thing sim­i­lar, James shared her jour­ney to re­cov­ery with her 104,000 so­cial-me­dia fol­low­ers, speak­ing openly and hon­estly about the re­al­i­ties of bat­tling can­cer. Now, three years af­ter get­ting the all clear, James is adamant that she will not let the ex­pe­ri­ence dic­tate her fu­ture. “That’s what hap­pened, yeah, [but] I don’t let it de­fine me,” James says. “It adds to the per­son that you are, and gives you em­pa­thy to­wards other peo­ple. I look at it as some­thing that’s added to my life. And I got through it. So I’m not re­sent­ful in any way. Not at all. I’m not one to re­gret – and I try very hard not to look back. I would tell my younger self to know that it’s not go­ing to work out how you thought, but that’s OK.”

Hav­ing chil­dren was one thing she wasn’t sure was go­ing to work out at all. When James made the tough de­ci­sion not to freeze her eggs – in or­der to im­me­di­ately com­mence can­cer treat­ment – she and Myles were un­cer­tain whether they’d ever be able to con­ceive nat­u­rally. They did, and she says be­com­ing a mother feels like the role she was born to play. “I used to look up to women older than me and think, ‘God, they’re so com­fort­able with them­selves. Why is that?’ But I think be­ing a mother re­ally gives you that. I feel strong, I feel happy. Yeah, life’s re­ally good.”

“I would tell my younger self to know that it’s not go­ing to work out how you thought, but that’s OK”

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