Olympic legend Dawn Fraser has exclusively opened up to New Idea about her terrifying secret health battle, which left her unable to eat and fearing for her life.
Although now well on the road to a full recovery, she’s a shadow of her former self – after shedding several dress sizes and 17kg.
It was a terrifying ordeal for the Aussie icon, who was left bedridden, struggling for breath and drenched with sweat.
But as stubborn as ever, the triple Olympic gold medalist defied doctors’ orders and refused to go to hospital, determined to beat her mystery illness at home even though she feared she might not make it.
"It was very serious," admits the feisty 75-year-old.
"I thought I was going to die – but I reckoned if I was going to cash in my chips, I’d do it in my own bed.
"For a month I didn’t eat, I couldn’t. All I lived on was lemons and water – I had no appetite."
Misdiagnosed as dengue fever, blood tests eventually revealed that she had an exceptionally severe case of flu, coupled with pneumonia.
And for a lifelong asthmatic, the prognosis was not good.
But the illness forced her to drop from a size 18 to a svelte 14, and she's now down to 83kg.
Enjoying life at her Sunshine Coast home, the good-humoured star says she’s loving her new figure – even though she’s not thrilled about the way she earned it.
"It was the worst possible way to lose weight," she laughs. "I wouldn’t recommend it to a dog!"
For the full interview and photoshoot, see this week’s edition of New Idea.