When Steph was just 19, a doctor told her she was gradually going blind.
She was diagnosed with cone rod dystrophy, a degenerative condition of the eyes that leads to gradual blindness.
“I think I kind of knew,” Steph, 31, tells Mamamia over the phone from her Melbourne home. There’s no sense of flatness in her voice or drama in her story. It was what it was, it is what it is.
“My mum got diagnosed before I did, because it’s a genetic condition.
“I remember after that being really conscious of my vision, but everyone told me I was being paranoid because of my mum. I knew my night vision wasn’t what it should be and that’s what starts going first. I had to go to Sydney and get heaps of tests.
“Then they told me.”
At the beginning, Steph says, she was fine. She expected it. Then reality came thick, fast and furiously.
“I went through a really big bout of anger, like I was really angry at my mum in particular. My mum and I are so close, and I didn’t really speak to her for 12 months. And when I did, I wasn’t very nice. I just played the blame game.
"In my head, there was no way I was going blind. I told myself it's not going to happen, they are going to find a cure. That was the only way I could deal with it. I was in denial for so many years.
"It wasn't until 18 months to two years ago where I really accepted it."
Now, Steph and her mother are each other's biggest champions. But before she reached a point where she was at peace with her diagnosis and excited for the future, Steph had a lot to navigate first.
At 23, she lost her driver's licence. After spending her time out of school working in real estate, her "passion", it became increasingly difficult to do what she loved. She couldn't drive to properties, and in her industry, that was one of the most important parts of the job. So, just before she lost her sight entirely, she tried desperately to see the world before it faded into her memory.