Dream cruise tore my family apart says woman who suffered from seasickness for FOUR years

A mother of two who developed permanent seasickness on a family cruise has told how the condition wrecked her marriage and left her unable to look after her autistic sons.

Within hours of disembarking from her voyage from Los Angeles to Hawaii in December 2007 and flying home, Michele-Marie Roberts had passed out in her kitchen.

Doctors began testing for Meniere’s disease, labyrinthitis, vertigo, multiple sclerosis and even brain tumours.

Michele-Marie Roberts
Michele-Marie Roberts on a cruise

Devastated: Michele-Marie Roberts developed a rare condition after a cruise that left her feeling dizzy and seasick

Describing her symptoms, Mrs Roberts said: ‘I can only describe it like coming off the waltzer at a funfair – when you are all disorientated and can’t walk in a straight line – except all the time.The only time I ever get a respite is when I go to sleep at night or, unusually, when I am driving or in motion.’

Eventually she looked up her symptoms online and suggested it might be a rare condition called Mal de Debarquement Syndrome (MdDS), for which there is no known cause or cure. She was officially diagnosed in June 2008.

Mrs Roberts, now 51, said: ‘I had been on several cruises before and it had always taken me a bit longer than everyone else to get my “land legs” back.

Michele-Marie had enjoyed going on cruises but now feels like she has just come off a funfair ride

Michele-Marie had enjoyed going on cruises but now feels like she has just come off a funfair ride

‘But this time, I knew straight away  something was different. As I was getting off the boat, I nearly collapsed. It felt like I had been hit by a brick wall.

‘I felt like I was being pulled and pushed simultaneously and that I was walking on a trampoline.

‘The funny thing was that while we were on the boat, whenever there had been a rough passage,  I had been bolt upright while  other people were swaying all over the corridors.’

The holiday had been meant to be a relaxing break for Mrs Roberts, from Ascot, Berkshire, and her then husband, who had married on a Caribbean cruise in 1998. But afterwards the illness soon began to take its toll. She said: ‘When it first started, I was stumbling about and slurring my words and people often thought I had been drinking.

Michele-Marie pictured with son Corey (l) and Calum. The stress from her condition led to her divorce

Michele-Marie pictured with son Corey (l) and Calum who both have autism. The stress from her condition led to her divorce

‘Once I was in House of Fraser and a shop assistant saw me and said, “Me thinks Madam needs to take more water with it”.

‘It really upset me because there was nothing I could do about it.’

Through a support group Mrs Roberts found regular exercise gave her some relief from her symptoms.

However, by this time her husband had been forced to run his business from home for several months to look after the boys and his wife. In 2009 the strain caused the end of their 11-year marriage.

For practical reasons, the couple initially decided their elder son Calum, 15, would live with his mother, and Corey, ten, whose care needs were greater, with his father.But the two boys missed each other and Mrs Roberts had no choice but to allow Calum also to move out.

She said: ‘MdDS has altered my life out of all recognition. I went from being a woman whose sole purpose of being was caring for her family, to a woman who now had to live on her own – something I had never done in my life – and facing the prospect of having to go back into the commercial workplace after 16 years’ absence.

‘I miss my sons all the time but  I see them during the week and  at weekends.

‘After my umpteenth job rejection, I took stock of where I was, what I knew and what I had  experience of and decided to use that  expertise to dictate my own destiny instead of waiting for more people to say, “Mal de what?”.’

She has now set up Wavelength Dating, a set of matchmaking websites aimed at those such as the bereaved or carers who can find dating difficult.

For more information please visit www.wavelengthdating.com