Adjusting my career aspirations
Tess Jewson always wanted to have a career as a trumpet player, but after being diagnosed with PH, she focused on a different – and successful – iteration of her musical dream.
“I was 17 years old when I was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension. At that stage in my life, I had my further education and career all planned out.
Throughout my childhood, I lived and breathed music. Music was my life. I had learnt to play piano, trumpet and cello and I was heavily involved in all music activities, including being a member of orchestras and travelling across the world. I absolutely loved every minute, but when I received my diagnosis, my whole world suddenly came crashing down.
Of the instruments I played, my favourite was the trumpet. I had chosen my future career around being a professional trumpeter, but that was taken away from me. Due to the high pressures in my lungs and the fast pace of my heartbeat, I wasn’t allowed to play trumpet again. The blowing was too much for my heart and so I had to stop playing. Yes, being told my illness was incurable and life-limiting was overwhelming but being told I couldn’t play trumpet again devastated me the most.
I was very fortunate that despite being in hospital for six months, I came out in time for my A-Level exams and passed them with flying colours. I was determined that I was still going to go to Southampton University and study for a degree in music.
Whilst I was there, I turned to music directing and I got heavily involved with the drama society. I loved being the Music Director of many shows, but I knew deep down, due to the energy it took to put on a show, I wouldn’t be able to do this as a career either.
After three years of coping with ups and downs of juggling PH with university, I graduated with a degree in music. I returned home and decided to open my own music teaching business. Though it wasn’t what I hoped or thought I’d end up doing for my career, I thoroughly enjoyed it and it worked well around my PH and hospital visits.
Having my own business meant I could choose my own hours and work as much or as little as I liked. I also enjoyed living with my parents again and even though I was 21 when I left uni, I still needed their help and support. Living with PH hadn’t got any easier and knowing they were always there, was a great comfort.
I continued teaching piano, cello and trumpet to many children and adults of all ages and abilities. The triumphs of seeing them succeed in music exams was a wonderful feeling and I was so pleased that I had created a successful business.
The start of owning a business isn’t easy and I did everything I could to get my name out there. Looking back to when it all began in 2012, I can’t believe how far I have come. I am super proud of my music teaching business and if it wasn’t for my PH diagnosis, I don’t think I would have even thought of giving it a go. I successfully ran my music teaching business for nine years!
Whilst continuing to teach music, I returned to university in 2014 and studied for a Master’s degree in music therapy. Music has helped me though the ups and downs of living with PH, so I wanted to use my passion for music to help others in need.
When I graduated a couple of years later, I extended my music business and added music therapy. I stopped taking on new students and did some work in schools around Essex, as a music therapist.
Fast forward to the present, and I am working solely as a music therapist. I was very lucky to have been offered a music therapy job in my hometown this year and I still get to choose my own hours and work what I can.
I have been very open about my PH with the company, and I am fortunate to have a very supportive manager. I absolutely love my job and knowing that I am helping others is an amazing feeling. I know I will never be able to have a 9-5 job, but I feel very grateful that I am still able to work, and I will do so, until PH stops me. I have finally found my vocation.“