Settling down on the deck, I sipped my cocktail.
‘Bucket list ticked off,’ my dad, Tom said, happily.
It was his 70th birthday and my family were enjoying a Caribbean cruise to celebrate.
But I’d left my two kids, Alexis, 15, and Tommy, 14, at home, so I was happy to get back, too.
Running a cleaning business, I rushed around to the kids’ sports games.
This time though, it all exhausted me.
‘I feel like I’m being pulled to the ground,’ I said to my boyfriend Stew, 58. ‘It’s a strange heavy feeling.’
Then, in bed that night, I felt as though I was moving and rocking.
I actually thought I was going to fall out of bed – and I was so nauseous.
I went to the GP and she sent me to hospital.
An MRI and CT scan came back normal but when the doctor asked me to close my eyes and stand, I couldn’t balance.
‘You have mal de debarquement syndrome,’ the neurologist told me.
What on Earth is that? I wondered.
There was no cure.
It turned out that when I was on the cruise, my brain had adapted to the swaying of the ship.
When I got off, I was supposed to switch back to being on land… but my brain thought I was still on a boat, and
I was ‘swaying’ on the inside to compensate.
‘It may go away or you may have it for life,’ the doctor added.
There was no cure.
It hadn’t been my first cruise, and no-one could tell me why this had developed this time.
The doctors sent me home with medication. But I still suffered from fatigue, nausea, light and motion sensitivity, migraines, insomnia, balance issues, and memory problems.
‘Mum, we can get through this,’ Alexis said, helping out with chores.
I started physical therapy, saw an ENT specialist and also an audiologist to help manage my symptoms.
Five months on, I’m still swaying.
‘The waves are strong today,’ I joke if the kids ask how I am. If I’m really bad, I sleep all day.
Thankfully, I found others through the MdDS Foundation, so I’m not alone.
I just hope that one day my brain will realise I’m back on dry land! ●