My Kitchen Rules star Roula may be making a name for herself as a controversial contestant on the hit Channel 7 show, but behind the scenes, the star has been battling health issues as she confirmed to New Idea that she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) more than 10 years ago.
At just 23, Roula was diagnosed with MS – which attacks the body’s central nervous system, leading to paralysis in some cases.
And in the past decade, the illness has impacted Roula's life heavily, experiencing kidney failure, partial loss of vision, hair loss, depression and anxiety.
"I didn’t want to talk about it on the show. I didn’t go on the show to talk about MS... but it did affect me on the show," the 34-year-old told New Idea
"I got sick a few times, I had a doctor come visit me at the hotel. With MS you get very fatigued and I got hypothermia after the very first Instant Restaurant. My hiatal hernia was also the reason I couldn’t eat fried food in episode one – which I could never explain to the table. It was full-on."
"When I was first diagnosed I had 20 lesions in my brain at the age of 23. Now I’ve got 90 – that freaks me out," she revealed.
"I do an MRI every year, and every year I just see those lesions go higher and higher. My neurologist shows me the difference between a normal brain and the holes in my brain andIlookatitandgetalumpin my throat and think what’s going to happen to me in the future?
"When I joined the MS Society years ago I had to stop going there for a bit because every time I'd go there, someone new would be in a wheelchair. I started getting really scared... and I’d worry about my future, when I was going to be in a wheelchair.
"I’ve had some very dark days. I had optic neuritis in my left eye – which is when you completely lose vision – when I was 23 and again when I was 25. I lost feeling in my right leg a couple of times.
The star went on to reveal exactly how much the disease has impacted her mental health.
"[It] was a very hard time for me to get out of bed. I got really bad anxiety, every time I’d leave the house it would hit me. I’ve gone through depression because of MS, I have to take a s***load of medication every day just to be the way I am now."
While the star is now focussing a lot of her energy on MKR, she says she made the conscious decision to join the show in order to challenge herself.
"I went on MKR to prove to myself that I can be me – I can be fun, I can be loud, I can be Roula," she says. "My parents were very worried about me, worried about my health – but I told them “No, I want to do this... I want to go be me for a little bit.”
Roula, who has received some backlash from fans on social media, believes that even though she's on a mission to win, she knows she faces a greater battle every day.
"I might be on a reality TV show at the moment – but dealing with my MS is my real-life reality."