MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A stage four cancer survivor, who now considers July 4th as her real day of independence, is now celebrating the fact that she can now give back.
Just 12 years ago, 17-year-old Tess Swearington had her final treatment July 4th, and she has been full of life ever since.
Tess was diagnosed with high-risk cancer at 4 years old, changing her life drastically.
She gives credit for her recovery to God, her family, and the staff at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Tess shared that St. Jude's doctors were able to properly diagnose her with a rare disease that, at the time, did not even have therapy options.
Because of the hospital's ongoing research, she was able to see her better days.
She was diagnosed with neuroblastoma cancer, which is often found in the small glands on top of the kidneys or the adrenal glands.
It can develop in the belly, chest, neck, pelvis, and bones.
“I’m thankful that I don’t have any crazy, life-altering side effects besides my hearing aids,” Tess said.
She and her family who are from Peoria, Illinois knew something was not right when she started complaining of leg and back pain.
Their pediatrician ran blood work, which came back normal, but that news was not settling enough, considering how she felt.
They were then sent to St. Jude for further testing, where they learned of the unexpected news.
“They did surgery and were able to remove that, but also discovered that her bone marrow was also filled with cancer. So we did a little bit of surgery here in Peoria at our St. Jude west affiliate and were sent to Memphis for further treatment,” her mom, Libby Swearington, explained.
Tess had 18-months of chemo treatment, radiation, a transplant, and surgery. Her dad, Spencer Swearington, said he will never forget the day he got the phone call.
“You go through a very wide range of emotions to despair to, ‘I think we can handle this,’” Spencer said.
Now 12 years later, Tess and her dad will participate in a St. Jude charity run from Memphis to Peoria, Illinois to raise money for others, which is a full-circle moment.
“Now I can give back without just being here. I can actually do something,” Tess expressed.
That run will happen on August 2. It is a 465-mile journey, which will take about 3 1/2 days to finish.
Tess will join her dad who has been at it for 13 years now.
To get involved, click here.