Cancer the catalyst for creating change
Being diagnosed with an uncommon form of aggressive breast cancer at 27 was the catalyst for Jess Weller to begin volunteering for a cause she believes in.
Jess visits schools around the country, giving talks about her experience and empowering young people with knowledge about cancer awareness, encouraging them to know their bodies and be proactive about seeking medical advice should they need it.
As part of her journey she has delivered a TEDx Square Mile talk in London called How Cancer gave me Purpose, has volunteered for New Zealand breast cancer support organisations and built her own charitable trust, The WELLer Network, which aims to educate young New Zealanders about the prevention and awareness of cancer.
Volunteering through The WELLer Network has been life changing for Jess and her audience members alike.
I am lifting a scary subject into the light to enable it to be surrounded by less fear and to provide knowledge that empowers people to protect themselves.
“Knowing that my words have encouraged someone to go for their routine mammogram or go to their GP for a check-up is part of the reason I started volunteering. Having healthy conversations is so simple and often they can create a small change in behaviour that saves a life. Giving your story and your time freely can really make a difference.”
During her talks, she says a particularly special moment is when people tell her she has given them courage.
“Often the people that come up to share are those who have a direct link to cancer or are seeing a loved one go through it. They say that my talk has given them hope after hearing that someone so young has been diagnosed with the disease and has come out the other side. They know that survival is possible and that is a great comfort for them.
“In addition to this, having people realise that they may need to see a doctor in order to look after their own health can be an emotional moment too.”
Jess has also been involved in media campaigns with the University of Auckland and speaks annually to the second year nursing students about the patient experience. She says volunteering is a way to instigate change, for individuals and society as a whole.
“Volunteering is a great way to get behind whatever you believe so passionately in. It is also a great way to connect with like-minded people, build relationships that you otherwise wouldn’t have and to create impact on a great scale for those in your community.
“I do it because knowledge is power, education is so important and it is a life giving experience.”
You can connect with The WELLer Network on Facebook and Instagram @thewellernetwork and read more about Jess’s cancer journey at www.jessweller.com.