But the 26-year-old from London has fought back and recently became Miss Surrey, building on her success in last year’s Miss London City pageant. She also competed in Miss Great Britain 2015, placing in the top 10 and will compete for the Miss Galaxy UK title in 2016.
She tells her story here.
“I arrived at work on a Monday morning feeling just like normal. After about thirty minutes I started to feel a bit sickly so went to get some food. After being at work for about an hour I suddenly became very hot and dizzy, and felt a sinking feeling flow down from my head into my body.
“My initial reaction was to think this was nerves, as I had a big meeting later on in the day. After about ten minutes I went to the bathroom to try and get myself together. I remember feeling so weak I sat down on the floor. This proved to be a mistake, as I then spent about five minutes trying to get the energy to stand up! I decided it was time to go home.
“I ordered a taxi, as I couldn’t face going on the Tube, with all the heat and so many people. At this point I had become incredibly cold. I sat in the taxi shivering, covering myself in all my clothing to try and keep warm. After about ten minutes I was violently sick.
“The taxi driver was incredibly forgiving and suggested that he take me to hospital. At this point I thought I must either have flu or be having a panic attack, so I disagreed with him and asked him to just take me home.
Should have gone to hospital
“Later I realised that this was a key decision; I should have gone to hospital.
“At home I sat in the shower until the water ran cold, trying to keep warm. I then got into bed, and texted my mum and best friend telling them that I was going to sleep as I thought I had the flu. They sent their best, and said they wouldn’t try and contact me for the rest of the day if I would be sleeping.
“At about 5:00pm my friend and colleague from work called me, which woke me up. I immediately realised I had an absolutely pounding headache. As he was living just down the road from me I asked if he could bring me some headache tablets, as I thought I was having a migraine.
“When he arrived at my flat an hour later my condition had deteriorated significantly. I was sweating heavily, dizzy and walking into walls, confused and in chronic pain. I cannot explain just how much my head hurt, and any light, even from a phone, felt like it seared into my skull.
"He called 999.
“The last thing I remember was the ambulance man arriving and asking me my name and date of birth. I couldn’t recall either.
Waking up five days later
“Five days later I woke up in St George’s Hospital intensive care unit. It took me about a day to come round and understand where I was. I was told that I had had septicaemia, that my heart had been kept going with adrenalin, and there had been a unit breathing for me. I had about 20 tubes attached to me.
"My parents had been contacted in the evening when I went into hospital and had travelled through the night, having being told that my prospects were not good. They later told me that the doctors thought my chances of survival were about 25%.
“Before contracting meningitis I had never been to hospital before. I was fit and healthy, and I think like most of us, I thought I was invincible.
“I’ve learnt so much from this experience, and feel incredibly lucky to have made it through. I now have a new and fresh appreciation of life.
“I had always wanted to run a marathon and compete in a pageant. I had never done either because I felt I probably wouldn’t be very good at either.
“This January I plan to run the runDisney marathon at Disney World Orlando, to raise money for Meningitis Now.
“I have also been awarded the Miss South London International 2015 title, and am due to compete in three UK pageant finals over the next year. I hope to use my time with this title to raise awareness for meningitis, in the hope that others will not have to go through what I and my family did last Christmas."