The first sign something was wrong came while Alyson Dunlop was attending her now 14-year-old son’s primary school graduation.
“I was sitting down and felt the floor was being ripped out from under me. I lost my vision for about 20 minutes,” the 36-year-old told Yahoo7 News.
The Samford Valley woman began to notice “visual changes” and consulted an optometrist, but was then referred to a GP when she presented with high blood pressure.
Since the initial “episode” Ms Dunlop has experienced crippling pain, debilitating migraines, vertigo, nausea, partial paralysis and numerous neurological challenges which she said were increasing in severity and duration.
The condition forced her to give up her eco-friendly cleaning business, which she had been running for about two years.
While neurologists confirmed Ms Dunlop had a 5mm benign cyst, she was told it was too small to be causing such grief and doctors passed off her symptoms as stress-related migraines.
She has been prescribed seven different medications over two years, but said nothing had helped and her condition is only becoming progressively worse.
She now sometimes becomes paralysed down the left side of her body, and is no longer well enough to drive a car.
“After an episode it takes up to two weeks to recover,” she said.
“The last six months have been terrible.
“I haven’t been the best version of myself in two years … My emotional health has also suffered.”
She used to enjoy swimming laps every other day, but the motion of the water now makes her nauseous and she had to give it up.
While Ms Dunlop said the support of her family’s has been “amazing”, her boys aged 11, 14, and 16 have had to chip in with cooking, cleaning and tending to the pets.
They’re also not able to have friends over because the condition has affected Ms Dunlop’s sleeping patterns and she’s often tired.
“My boys will like to have me back and they can be kids again,” she said.
“I want to be able to walk my kids to school and to help them with their homework.
“I just want to be able to say ‘yes’ to people’s invitations. I just want to be able to hang out with my family, take the dog to the creek, take the kayak out. I want to have a fun time with my children again.”
Dr Charlie Teo surgery is a lifeline
A fed up Ms Dunlop flew to Sydney last week to consult with leading Australian neurosurgeon Charlie Teo, who diagnosed her with a pineal cystic tumour.
He told her he has operated on about 100 patients with the same condition and believes surgical removal of the cyst will help the mum return to a “normal” life.
“He said ‘I cannot guarantee this will fix anything, but the facts show 100 people have their lives back’,” she said.
The surgery is not covered by Medicare and will cost about $100,000, with the majority required as an upfront payment.
With Ms Dunlop no longer able to work and relying on her partner Michael Thorley – a creek catchment officer – as the only income earner, a Go Fund Me page has been set up to try and raise the funds needed for the life-changing surgery.