Image: Instagram (@amandabisk).
After representing Australia in the 2010 Commonwealth Games, Amanda Bisk came home with her eyes fixed on a bigger prize: the London Olympics.
The talented pole-vaulter, who was 25 at the time, had a few weeks off to recover from Delhi before her training resumed. Amanda was excited to get back into her routine, but over the course of a few weeks it became clear something had changed.
“I started to realise I really wasn’t recovering from training and I was abnormally tired. I almost didn’t feel like going to training, which was not like me at all — I’m a very bubbly and energetic person and training was a massive part of my life. I loved it,” she recalls.
"As soon as I started feeling that I was like, 'That's not normal'. Because I'd been an elite athlete for such a long time it wasn't like I'd been over-training, it was just my normal routine, so it was a bit strange."
Amanda's doctor ran tests on her blood, iron levels and other markers, but there was nothing out of the ordinary. Over a six-month period she visited other doctors and specialists to see if they could detect anything, but tests on her kidneys, liver and other body functions failed to produce an answer. Meanwhile, her symptoms — flu-like sensations, swollen glands, light-headedness, constant fatigue — worsened.
Eventually, Amanda's initial doctor diagnosed her with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), a neurological condition with no known cause or straightforward cure. It's believed around 10,000 Australians are living with the illness.
"I was like, 'Oh my goodness'. It was a tough battle and we really did try to combat all my symptoms — my training load was 50 per cent less than what anyone else was doing, but I was still fatigued. Then I was not training at all," Amanda, now 29, says.
"By the end of it all I was starting to hate training and starting to not enjoy sport, and that's when I decided to retire from athletics as my professional career and really take time to try and heal myself." (Post continues after gallery.)
This decision not only put Amanda's career on the shelf, but her Olympic dream as well. She was understandably shattered, and says she felt "lost" for some time after that.
Amanda was based at home throughout her immediate rest and recovery period. She says every CFS sufferer experiences the condition differently in terms of the duration and severity of symptoms.