Tamsyn Spear stands by the river smiling at camera with her brown Labrador dog by her side.

Tamsyn Spear – Aspiring, Positive, Mentor

Nambucca Valley local 19-year-old Tamsyn Spear loves sports. She plays touch football and basketball and does athletics, but netball is where her passion lies, and she’s now a Development Officer with Netball NSW.

Tamsyn is close to her friends, community, and family and works with her dad at the Macksville Hotel while also studying physiotherapy at university.

Her ability to remain positive, always look for the good in people and situations, and embrace challenges makes her a fantastic role model and coach.

These strengths were needed most when Tamsyn was diagnosed with MOG Antibody Spectrum Disorder, an autoimmune disease that affects the optic nerve causing periods of vision loss.

Tamsyn works hard to achieve her dreams and to help other young people in the Valley achieve theirs.

Tamsyn has found the perfect role as a netball mentor, coach and development officer,

I’ve been playing netball since I was seven and I just absolutely love netball itself, but also the team aspect I think is amazing, and the association we have here, the support, the parents, they’re all just awesome.”

She’s also very appreciative of the support from her family.

“My mum and I are very close. She’s everything to me.

“I’ve worked with my dad at the Macksville Hotel for about four years now. He’s my rock, he’s always been an inspiration to me. He puts a lot of effort into everything he does so I really aspire to be like that.”

“I think good karma is a thing, and if you remain positive, then the world will show it back to you.

Tamsyn stays upbeat despite the circumstances, but this bright outlook was under threat when she started to experience blurry vision and then vision loss in her right eye.

“At the end of July last year, I started having blurry vision, headaches, and pain when I moved my eyes around.

“I said it to a few people and they were like, ‘Oh, it’s probably just a migraine. It’s probably not that big of a deal’.

“Each day just kind of got blurrier and blurrier… I couldn’t see anything out of my right eye.”

The eye specialist sent Tamsyn to the Sydney Eye Hospital for assessment and testing.

“It was peak COVID, so it was very scary. I was down there for about 10 days and they thought it was an autoimmune condition but they weren’t really sure. That was very scary for me because even the doctors had no idea.

Two weeks after she was out of the hospital, Tamsyn’s neurologist diagnosed her with MOG (myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein) Antibody Spectrum Disorder.

Tamsyn explains, “There was an antibody that was attacking my optic nerve. [It] pretty much inflamed the nerve, and that’s why I couldn’t see.

“I didn’t realise how dependent you had to be on other people. I was really lucky to have my parents, my brother and other people in my life that were there to support me because literally making breakfast and making toast was so hard. Not being able to see anything was really difficult.”

The doctors said that her vision loss may be a one-off or may recur. Tamsyn thought, “I’m sure it’s going to be a one-off. I’d learnt lessons and that was all it was
going to be”.

At the end of May, her blurry vision returned. But, ever the optimist and with a level of resilience that we all wish we had, Tamsyn explains how she’ll use what’s happened to help others overcome setbacks.

“It was quite scary to have it happen again. It’s a pretty unique experience. I’ve learned it the hard way so if I’m able to share a bit of insight and a bit of advice to younger girls then they can know that everything is going to be okay.”

Tamsyn and her dad decided to get matching ‘Embrace the challenge’ tattoos as a reminder to always look for the positives.

“Even though you could feel so negative about something, deep down inside you’ve got to stay positive. No matter what it is.

“It’s okay not to be okay. But you’ve just always got to know deep down inside that you’ve just got to keep working and keep pushing forward.

“I have really loved growing up in this Valley and it’s always been a really important dream of mine to be able to give back to the next generation because I think everyone here is absolutely amazing and I just really want to help girls and boys achieve their dreams and goals.”

You can now watch Tamsyn’s story, other stories from local heroes, and the full feature documentary film, Inspire U: Stories from the Valley, on our Inspire U project page. We’ll be adding new stories regularly, so come back soon.

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Author: Simone Atallah

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