Chloe Bayliss is an actor. You might recognise her from TV Week Logie Award nominated drama Doctor Doctor which is now filming its fourth season. She is a Helpmann Award nominee and was a finalist in the prestigious 2016 Heath Ledger Scholarship.
But she wasn't always an actor.
In a previous life Bayliss was a dancer. Dancing was her life. It defined her and guided every decision she made. At the age of 14 she moved from Port Macquarie to Lambton with her grandmother to study at the National College of Dance in Newcastle. Her parents and siblings joined her a year later, settling in Eleebana.
Fast forward two years and Bayliss, 16, had the world at her feet. She had just been accepted into a dance company in the US when, without warning, the universe rudely pulled the proverbial rug out from under her. Bayliss became seriously ill and spent months in hospital suffering from seizures and fluid retention. Then her kidneys started to fail. She almost died. After much head-scratching by doctors, she was eventually diagnosed with lupus, an autoimmune disease.
"My illness and all I went through is something that I put at the back of my mind for a really long time," she tells Weekender.
"Then one day I found my old journal entries and decided to put everything together and start writing. I really enjoyed that process because I was getting rid of stuff that I should have dealt with a long time ago but had feared people would see me for my illness and not my potential. I so desperately wanted to prove myself as an actor and artist without my personal life influencing the way audiences saw the characters I would play. But after much thought, I came to the conclusion that revealing my past might be of help to someone else."
En Pointe is written for young adults. It's unflinching and deeply personal, covering coming-of-age issues like a first kiss, independence, family dynamics and sex - as experienced by a teen confined to a hospital bed. Bayliss is sharing her experiences to spark conversation and inspire others but admits she's nervous about baring her heart and soul.
As a dancer, Bayliss pushed herself to the limit both physically and mentally. She trained her body to push through aches and pains and didn't give her initial symptoms a second thought.
"When I got sick everything got really bad, really quickly," she says.
"The scary thing was that they couldn't diagnose me properly so they were treating me with all these different medications to see what would work. They were sending my blood all over the world for people to have their input."
Writing her memoir opened up old wounds. The treatment wasn't pleasant. In addition to dialysis, she was regularly connected to a plasmapheresis machine through a permanent port in her neck. It removed the blood from her body, separated her plasma, got rid of the "bad plasma" and replaced it with donor plasma.
"The dialysis wasn't so bad because they were getting rid of the fluid in my body. The plasmapheresis machine was the one that caused me a lot of trouble. When my blood would come back into my body it would be bitterly cold and I would shiver and shiver," she says.
"It would also tend to give me really bad reactions, so my face would swell up and I'd get hives all over my body."
Having acute kidney failure at the age of 17, and with talk of a transplant ringing in her ears, Bayliss despaired at taking medication typically prescribed for people decades her senior. Her mental health suffered. Bayliss had been so independent, so driven - and now she had to be looked after by doctors, nurses and her parents like a child.
"It was so frustrating. I had done everything by myself, for myself. I had my whole life planned out and it all suddenly stopped," she says.
"I couldn't do anything for myself.
"It was devastating. Dance was my life. I knew nothing else. I chose the dance studio rather than socialising. Dance was my identity and I became a different person, a person that I didn't recognise any more.
"When I was sick nobody my age that I knew was going through what I was going through. I would have loved to have read something that was honest and real and raw that I could have connected with."
Today, Bayliss is happy and (relatively) healthy. She takes about 15 medications a day to help with the autoimmune disease and says it was "a miracle" that her kidneys recovered to the point that she could quit dialysis. She discovered a love for acting that filled the void left by dancing. A different form of creative expression, but with many overlaps.
"When you are a teenager you are trying to explore and deal with all these things that are so new. My first kiss was at 14 and I was 18 before I was kissed again. When I lost my virginity - I wanted to show what that was like for someone who was so sick. There was this fear that I was going to die, that I was going to leave this earth without ever having experienced any of that.
"If parents end up reading the book I would love that, too, because it gives an insight into a teenager's brain. I kept my thoughts and fears to myself most of the time because I didn't want to worry other people. But I did write them down in my journal.
"I live a really good life but if I'm honest, yeah, the disease still scares me. Every time I have a doctor's appointment I worry about the results. Blood and plasma donations are so important. If I didn't have all those donations I wouldn't be alive. I used something like 12 bags of plasma a week for close to two years."
En Pointe, by Chloe Bayliss, is out now through Pantera Press, RRP $24.99.
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