Updated 23 April 2018

Mysterious illness turns energetic pole dancer into a fatigued ‘gran’

A former pole dancer now suffers from chronic fatigue and pain, numbness and tingling, seizures and slurred speech.

A young woman has gone from being an energetic pole dancer to a fatigued “gran” after falling ill with a mystery disease – even doctors can’t figure out what’s caused the change.

Ashleigh Butler’s life was transformed overnight when she suddenly lost feeling in her legs at work during a shift as a waitress.

Boyfriend now full-time carer

When her symptoms worsened she consulted several doctors – but with tests not showing anything, they have been left stumped.

More than a year later, 22-year-old Ashleigh, a law student and fitness fanatic from Jervis Bay in Australia, is no closer to knowing what is wrong with her.

She suffers from chronic fatigue and pain, numbness and tingling, seizures and slurred speech. She also experiences blurred vision, hair loss and excess sweating.

The former pole dancing instructor now spends her time knitting and her boyfriend Justin, 23, is now her full-time carer.

“One day I was a normal, healthy 21-year-old girl and the next day I was burdened with a sickness that left me disabled and no one has been able to explain why.

“It turned me into a gran overnight. I went from being a pole dancing instructor to knitting. It made me old before my time.”

Ashleigh was studying a double full-time degree in law and psychology and working long hours as a waitress.

“I was extremely fit and healthy because I was a pole dancer and instructor, plus a regular gym-goer.

Many tests, but no answer

“One day I just couldn’t feel my legs. Doctors thought I had the early symptoms of MS [multiple sclerosis]. But I had the tests and they just couldn’t place what was wrong with me.

“In a weird way that crushed me as I was so sick I just wanted to know what was wrong with me.”

Months passed by and Ashleigh saw several specialists, with no answer.

“My boyfriend has to help me walk and supports me financially.”

“I’ve been searching for a diagnosis since September 2016 and I’ve spent thousands on medical testing and specialist opinions that didn't get me anywhere.”

However, Ashleigh has found a doctor who’s close to a diagnosis, for which she needs to undergo extensive testing over the next few weeks. 

She’s started a blog to help other people who are in her position.