In 2014, Cecilia Vuong thought her wildest dreams had come true.
The 31-year-old single mother of two had made it to the top 24 of MasterChef Australia, one of Australia’s most popular television shows.
What was particularly remarkable about Vuong’s success, was that only a year before she had suffered a life-threatening stroke.
In an interview with Who magazine, Vuong described the terrifying ordeal. She had been snowboarding with her son Nathan in Mount Hotham, Victoria, when all of a sudden “…it felt like somebody was whacking my head with a metal bat”.
Vuong was rushed to hospital where she underwent emergency brain surgery.
The following year, Vuong made the decision to audition for MasterChef Australia. She was immediately a favourite after exciting the judges with her macaroon recipe.
Vuong on MasterChef 2014. Image via Channel 10.
It came as an enormous surprise to fellow contestants and viewers when Vuong withdrew soon after qualifying.
She had been experiencing blurred vision and blackouts, and was suffering from memory loss.
Judge Gary Mehigan announced moments before the first cook-off, "As you know, Cecilia is recovering from a brain injury. We received expert medical advice instructing us that it is not in her best interest to continue in the competition. Cecilia is a brilliant cook and we all hope we see her next year in this competition."