It was supposed to be the holiday of a lifetime. Bouncing around the Greek Islands and cruising along the Italian coastline in the ultimate European summer adventure.
But for Australian primary school teacher, Elise Osmand, the joy of overseas travel was brought to a sudden halt when one morning, she woke up without most of her eye sight.
The 28-year-old put her vision loss down to a combination of jet lag and a big night out on the town. She was otherwise seemingly healthy and had no other symptoms.
“My vision felt like I had foundation in my eye,” Ms Osmand explained to news.com.au.
“I wasn’t in pain … and I could see from the bottom of my right eye. But the top half was blurred to a dark brown, so I couldn’t see properly.”
Ms Osmand and her travel buddies were in a rush to get to the airport so instead of seeking immediate medical attention, she decided to continue her travels to Athens and see how she felt in 24 hours.
“When I woke up the next day… my sight was completely gone in my right eye,” she says, explaining that she still had 20/20 vision in her left.
It was at this stage that Ms Osmand decided to source an English-speaking doctor close to her accommodation in Athens. He initially told her she had a brain tumour.
“Then the next thing he said was…’you don’t have a brain tumour… but it could be cancer.’ That’s when things freaked me out,” Ms Osmand explains.
In the end, he gave the young Australian a diagnosis that has changed her life forever. Ms Osmand was told she had Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
“The only thing I knew about that was a wheelchair,” she says.
“At first I got upset about it… it was a really confronting moment. It felt like my world had come crumbling down… a death sentence.”
MS is a disease in which the immune system eats away at the protective covering of nerves, resulting in disrupted communication between the brain and the body.
Currently, 10 Australians are diagnosed with MS every week with the majority of those diagnosed being young women around a similar age to Ms Osmand.
Ms Osmand was diagnosed in 2019. Her vision returned four months later but she says she quickly began to experience other symptoms related to the diagnosis, including hypersensitivity to touch and severe fatigue.
“I have always been very active and would do a lot of exercise. Now, while it’s still really good for me to do, it can trigger symptoms and drain me to a point I can’t recover from. So I have to stay hydrated and cool,” she tells the Australian media outlet.
Ms Osmand said the fatigue factor has been the hardest symptom to live with, especially as it often leads to cancelling plans at the last minute.
But she still hopes that her early diagnosis and effective treatment plan will reduce the likelihood of more complicated symptoms down the track.
“Some days are crippling and I can’t get out of bed the entire day,” Ms Osmand says.
“There’s no guarantee I won’t have issues with other areas, but I may not get to the wheelchair stage. Getting on treatment is the most important thing you can do and early detection. You can’t fix damage but you can at least prevent further ones.”