FROM her bed in hospital, Tess Asteriades could see fireworks shooting skywards through the window.

It was New Year’s Eve, and she’d had surgery the same day.

“There was a giant display,” she said.

“I was on the top floor, and so had a good view.”

More than a year earlier, when mum Helen noticed a lump in her neck as they travelled back from rowing practice, the teenager already had thyroid cancer.

She just did not know it yet.

Tess hadn’t felt ill, but was checked out straightaway.

A series of minor tests followed, all of them frustratingly inconclusive.

The diagnosis, delivered after a referral to a specialist who took a biopsy last summer, was follicular carcinoma.

It is rare, and develops slowly, but is treatable.

“There was a nurse with the doctor when I went in,” the 15-year-old told the Guardian.

“I didn’t think much of it at first, but I guess it made sense in case I started crying.

“I liked the way the doctor told me, there was no beating around the bush.

“She told me straight I had cancer.”

A student at Weaverham High School, where she talked calmly and with candour for the best part of an hour, Tess has been active for as long as she can remember.

She was a swimmer, and then rode horses, before she tagged along with a friend to try rowing for the first time three years ago.

The choice wasn’t random.

Her mum had been a sculler, and older brother Tom competed for Northwich Rowing Club at Henley Royal Regatta before going on to represent Oxford Brookes while studying at university.

“I was a bit scared at first because I don’t like the unknown,” she said.

“But now I’d rather row than do anything else.”

The sport has never been far away while she recovers.

Not long after her operation, she felt strong enough to resume physical activity.

Her destination was Northwich’s boat-house next to the River Weaver.

“I was bored at home,” she said.

“I’d missed a lot of training and didn’t want to fall behind with my fitness.

“I wasn’t thinking about competitions, but when they came around I wanted to be there.”

And she’s glad that she was.

Tess was part of an under 16s girls’ crew from Northwich that took bronze in their team category at the English Indoor Championships in Manchester.

She narrowly missed out on a medal too in the under 15s girls’ individual standings, but celebrated with Iona Mitchell and Hannah Middlebrook after they took gold and bronze respectively.

It hadn’t been long ago that she had told them, and the rest of her friends that she rows with in club’s junior squad, about her illness.

“I think when people hear the word ‘cancer’ they think about hair falling out, or chemo, and things like that,” Tess said.

“They think of the worst-case scenario.

“It’s normal for everybody else to freak out because they don’t fully understand, but I’d had it explained to me and had been reassured already.

“I tried to do the same for them.

“They haven’t treated me differently; I think they saw I was fine and they responded to that.”

Doctors will of course keep an eye on her, but a prognosis is entirely positive.

Her story is a stark reminder that cancer doesn’t really care if you are young or old, have no family history of the disease or are fitter than most of your peers.

“If somebody asks me, then I’ll tell them about it,” said Tess.

“But it’s not something you go around telling everybody either.

“It’s happened so quickly, and mentally I maybe haven’t had time to make a big thing of it.

“It’s felt like another challenge to get through, and I don’t think of myself as tough for doing it.

“I’d say I cry quite easily, but mainly about stupid things.

“I didn’t cry after being told I had cancer, but I did after having my phone taken off me! I can’t remember what I’d done to deserve that.

“It’s underneath the surface though, and sometimes there is a trigger for you to release emotion that’s been inside.”

She shared a story of not doing as well as she had expected on a maths test.

It isn’t something she’d ordinarily be upset about.

“It wasn’t my score, it’s because of what’s happened I think,” she explained.

Three weeks ago she returned to hospital for radioactive iodine treatment, which is given to kill any cancer cells left behind after an operation like she’d had on New Year’s Eve.

Tess was kept in isolation for a few days afterwards before returning home to Hartford.

However while waiting for the radiation to leave her body, she couldn’t train at the club.

She asked a coach for a plan she could follow while alone, but didn’t reach the end.

“I couldn’t believe it when I saw her walking towards the boat house with her mum last weekend,” said Graham Jump.

“They had a Geiger counter, and we couldn’t give her a cuddle.

“But she joined in.”

Tess told the Guardian that she wasn’t trying to prove anything.

More simply, to be back with her friends – and to rowing – is a sign normality is returning.

“When I’m away, I want to be there even more,” she said.

“It becomes kind of a ritual to be with them, and it’s annoying when I can’t.

“Rowing is a big part of my life; you spend time in a crew and can’t help but become close with the other people in the boat.

“It’s fun, and I don’t feel stressed there.

“Nobody judges you; we’re all equal and nobody cares about other stuff that’s going on.”