The recovery period from violent food poisoning is an interesting journey. You truly have no choice but to stay in bed and remain still for many, many hours (and in my case days) in order to save your energy for when you have to force yourself to run back for the 1000th time to the bathroom.

You feel light-headed, hot then cold, and extremely weary. You also have waves of nausea and feel like you are being repeatedly stabbed in the abdomen, which leaves you totally breathless.

On top of this, you start to hallucinate from the combined dehydration, summer heat and lack of food in your stomach. Fun times.

And moreover, all you want is to be home.

Home with someone taking care of you. Not in a foreign country in the middle of severe weather conditions and worrying about how you are going to pick up your AU$10,000 Carnival costume across the other side of the city in the pouring rain and get it back safely to your apartment, especially when all the roads are flooded.

Worried about how you are going to keep up your training and stamina with only a week to go until Carnival, when you can’t even keep down some chicken soup.

Worried that the President of your samba school is furious with you because you missed the technical rehearsal and everyone is texting you to tell you so (despite you having left her several messages apologizing and explaining why).

Worried about how you are going to attend all of your remaining media commitments, plus welcome a 30-strong tour group from Australia and organize to pick up all of their costumes, plus orchestrate a series of beach photo shoots for them including hair/make up artists, costumes, photographer and stylists, plus countless day trips around Rio and dance workshops, all while you are curled up in bed in excruciating pain.

One of the many photoshoots I’ve directed on Ipanema beach

Worried about the thousands of dollars you spent (and have now lost) on feathers for the President’s granddaughter for her costume, that you organized as a favour, and which were confiscated and destroyed at Rio’s airport when a friend tried to bring them for you, despite having a government-approved quarantine certificate with her.

Worried that the school’s President is even more furious at you now because of said feathers, and her granddaughter is going to try to kill you when she finds out she has no feathers for her Carnival costume.

Worried that after a year of preparation and tens of thousands of dollars spent on your position, that you won’t have the strength to even make it down the avenue, or worse still, you won’t be able to dance to the level you know you can because you’re still too weak to walk.

If those days of forced solitude, alone with my thoughts and feeling so unwell, weren’t enough to unravel me in the lead up to the parade, then the news that a dear girlfriend of mine back home in Australia had succumbed to her brain tumour and passed away on the eve of Carnival, leaving behind 3 teenage daughters and a cherished Brazilian husband, finally sent me over the edge.

Sara and I had performed together in Rio Carnival in 2008 as Roman Gladiators for one of Rio’s top schools, Grande Rio. Even though our costumes weighed a tonne and we could hardly move, let alone Samba, we had the best time feeling the energy of Carnival for the very first time. It was such a special memory and one that now brought about an onslaught of tears and an incredulous feeling of fury, which overtook my entire body and made my blood boil to the rim.

Sarah with her husband Wagner (left) and our mutual friend Helio (right)

Why God, Orixas, Universe?! Why do you make us suffer so much? Isn’t life supposed to be beautiful? Why do you rip the ones we love away from us too soon and throw so many seemingly unsurmountable obstacles in our path, especially when all we are doing is trying to realize our dreams and fulfil our destinies, without harming anyone along the way?

I have been through so much in my 38 years on this planet and I cannot take any more! I’m exhausted and have no more energy to fight you anymore! Enough!

With that, I fell into a very dark place, with thoughts of giving up once and for all and never again returning to Rio to perform in Carnival, dance Samba or even running Sambaliscious.

I was done.

Luckily for me, I had a very special girlfriend with me in Rio this trip, who came to my rescue and pulled me out of my despair with lots of hugs, encouragement and plenty of caipirinhas (who would’ve thought that they’d help my body to recover?!)

Thank goodness for soul sisters!

After a day spent in the sun with this amazing woman by my side, I started to feel a bit more like myself again, and was able to focus my attention back on the mammoth tasks ahead.

Sash and I after a beautiful day at the beach

There was still so much to do before my own Carnival performance on Sunday night, as I had to pick up the girls’ costumes from the Samba school (think Sash and I plus 30 costumes stuffed into a 16-seater van!), try to sort out whose costume was whose (despite having sent through their details months prior, the costumes all arrived in one big bag with no names/sizes), then distribute them and make sure they all fit (most often they don’t so a lot of last minute sewing and gluing is required!).

Girls on our Sambaliscious ‘Carmen Miranda’ float

On the Friday evening I had to accompany the tour group to watch the Carnival parade (a night that usually goes from 9pm-5am), then on the Saturday night escort them through the chaotic marshalling area (think ridiculous traffic jams just to get to the Sambadrome, then trying to keep everyone together as they wander through the back streets of Rio in search of our Samba school), then assist them to climb ladders in their high heels to get up and onto the floats, and finally racing across the avenue from side to side whilst they are performing, to make sure no one is feeling unwell and about to pass out and fall off a float.

Welcome to my life at Rio Carnival!

Taking care of a tour group at Carnival is no easy task

By Sunday morning, no one had fallen off a float or gone missing (thank GOD!) and everyone was filled to the brim with magical moments of a once-in-a-lifetime experience that they will hopefully cherish forever.

And I was a complete mess.

How on earth am I going to perform tonight like the goddess I want to be, when I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck (both physically and emotionally?)

How can I possibly perform at the ‘Olympics of Samba’ when I have no more energy to give?

And then it hit me.

How can you be complaining about energy when your friend is no longer here? You are in Rio, doing what you love, and about to perform for the second time as an International Muse (and the 8th time in Rio Carnival), a experience that so many girls can only ever dream of, and your friend will never be able to do again.

So get over yourself and muster up the willpower to rock it on the avenue tonight! If not for yourself, then for her.

I would dance for Sara.

And for all of the women who had passed too soon. I would dedicate my Carnival to them, and dance for the pure joy of dance, the priviledge of being alive and the rare opportunity of being able to live my dream.

In loving memory of Sara Martins