A musical maestro diagnosed with an incurable heart condition turned to pole dancing to keep fit and has found it is making her stronger.

Tess Dunn, 23, was diagnosed with a hole in the heart after collapsing with chest pains at the age of 17.

The music graduate was told not to do any sport, but has found pole dancing is strengthening the muscles around her heart.

Tess, of D’Arcy Road, Tiptree, is set to become the face of a British Heart Foundation campaign next year.

She said: “I can’t jog, run or go to the gym like everyone else, so I was thinking I needed to find something to keep me going.

“I googled it and found a class in Colchester, so I went along on my own for a trial.

It’s two hours a week – they let me do it at my own pace and I’ve made so many friends.”

Tess fell ill while she was at Colchester Institute.

She said: “I was rushed to hospital and had to undergo all sorts of tests and X-rays, which was a shock because I thought I was going to be in and out.”

Within a year of being diagnosed, Tess started a music degree at Southampton University.

The former Thurstable School pupil said: “I had to get my head around dealing with it all on my own, away from my parents, so it was a big step and a test to see if I could handle it.

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

“At times I thought ‘I can’t do this’ and went home, but then I’d go back. I had to juggle my health and my work, but I was still able to party with friends and I learnt to tell how much I could handle, which I found out by pushing to my limits.”

Since gaining her degree, Tess has worked as a music tutor and as a teacher in Qatar and is due to start a masters degree in music therapy.

Tess’s condition means she gets tired quickly and cannot do strenuous exercise.

She said: “For every day where I have plans, I try to have a rest day in between.

“I know if I go out with friends for the day and do lots of walking, the next day I will feel rubbish and have headaches or migraines."

“It is only each morning that I know how I’ll feel, so even if I do have plans, I sometimes have to cancel them.”

Tess will become the face of a British Heart Foundation campaign next year, featuring on posters and in advertising campaigns.

She said: “I really want to support the foundation and spread awareness. My condition is incurable, so I’m fighting for a cure, but there are so many different types that need money for research.”