TORONTO - Thirteen months after ripping up her knee, Lauren Sesselmann has worked her way back into the Canadian women's soccer team.
The 31-year-old defender is one of 23 players on John Herdman's roster for a friendly Thursday against France in Bondoufle, south of Paris.
It's been a long road back since the injury occurred in practice before last year's Cyprus Cup.
"My dreams were slowly fading away," Sesselmann acknowledged. "I was like 'Am I going to come back from this?' I didn't know. It was a constant battle every day, trying to push yourself.
"Everybody's body is different. Some people come back from it faster, some people it takes longer."
Sesselmann had a rough start after surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament. She was sick the first three months of her recovery, dealt with plenty of pain and spent time in hospital.
"Rehab is hard, it is hard," she said. "I don't wish that upon anybody, I'm not going to lie, and I hope to never go through it again."
Sesselmann believes she will be better than ever after having to relearn how to do just about everything from a single squat to running.
"It kind of gave me a way to become a better athlete throughout this whole process, because now I was relearning how to do everything the right way."
She says the timing of the injury was in her favour, however, allowing her the time to get her body back to where it needed to be.
Sesselmann knows of what she speaks. She has her own successful fitness program called "Fit As a Pro," which focuses on quick, high-intensity on-the-go workouts.
"It's something that really interests me and if I can help other people get to that level, that's definitely my dream."
Soccer remains her No. 1 focus but she says the fitness program has been a fun distraction.
The Canadian team now waits on veteran midfielder Diana Matheson, who tore her left anterior cruciate ligament in a friendly against Japan last October. Matheson's return in time for the World Cup seems far more unlikely given the shorter recovery time.
This week's game against third-ranked France is the penultimate for No. 8 Canada before the June 6 kickoff of the Women's World Cup in Edmonton. The Canadians host No. 5 England in Hamilton on May 29.
Sesselmann had original hoped to be back last month in time for this year's Cyprus Cup, where she injured the knee. But she eventually elected to spend that time training with the Houston Dash, her club team, to put the finishing touches on her comeback.
The American-born Sesselmann qualifies to play for Canada through her father, who was born in Stephenville, N.L. She was 28 when she made her debut for Canada.
She has won 40 caps for Canada and started all six games at the London Olympics where the Canadian women defeated France 1-0 to win the bronze medal.
The French have gone on to become one of the in-form women's teams in the world.
Playing in Group A, Canada will play its first two games in Edmonton with matches against China on June 6 and New Zealand on June 11 before heading to Montreal to face the Netherlands on June 15.
France will open with two games in Moncton, taking on England on June 9 and Colombia on June 13 before taking on Mexico in Ottawa on June 15.
Goalkeepers: Stephanie Labbe, unattached; Karina LeBlanc, Chicago Red Stars; Erin McLeod, Houston Dash.
Defenders: Kadeisha Buchanan, West Virginia University; Allysha Chapman, Houston Dash; Robyn Gayle, unattached; Carmelina Moscato, unattached; Marie-Eve Nault, unattached; Rebecca Quinn, Duke University; Lauren Sesselmann, Houston Dash; Rhian Wilkinson, Portland Thorns; Emily Zurrer, unattached.
Midfielders: Kaylyn Kyle, Portland Thorns; Jonelle Filigno, Sky Blue FC; Jessie Fleming, London NorWest SC; Desiree Scott, Notts County Ladies FC; Sophie Schmidt, unattached; Ashley Lawrence, West Virginia University.
Forwards: Josee Belanger, unattached; Janine Beckie, Texas Tech University; Adriana Leon, Chicago Red Stars; Christine Sinclair, Portland Thorns; Melissa Tancredi, Chicago Red Stars.
Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter