THE world has changed a lot since Kim Hurley stepped aboard the Ruby Princess a year ago.
If she knew then what she knows now, she said she would "never" have gotten on the ill-fated cruise to New Zealand linked to more than 600 COVID-19 cases, including her own.
"If I'd had a crystal ball that had told me what was ahead would I have gotten on the boat? The answer would be no," she said. "But I have to say, at the time we weren't given an option.
"It was get on the boat or you lose your money. There's no danger."
The Lake Macquarie woman, who went on the cruise to celebrate her 60th birthday, still struggles with breathlessness and a lack of energy almost a year after her diagnosis with COVID-19.
"I've got what they call 'Long COVID'," she said.
"This has kept going for me. I've had ongoing issues.
"I've got scarring and nodules on my lungs, which causes breathlessness and a few other symptoms.
"My life is not back to normal, it's not back to how it was before I went on the cruise and got it."
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The Ruby Princess left Circular Quay on March 8, the day before the Hunter recorded its first confirmed case of COVID-19.
"I'm noticing a lot of cruises are being advertised now, so it seems like the cruising industry is wanting to get up and running again," she said.
"It's something I've been put off now, forever. I wish I hadn't gotten on the boat. I feel upset that my life has been changed by these ongoing health issues.
"I'm becoming a grandmother this year, and I want to be here in 20, 30 years.
"I want to be fit and healthy with my grandchildren, and I am already breathing like my father was when he died in his 80s."
Ms Hurley said the long-lasting effects of the virus had also affected her financially, as she no longer had the energy, or capacity, to work full time.
In the past 12 months Ms Hurley has been told COVID-19 was a "hoax", that it was a conspiracy, and that she'd just had "a flu".
"I found that really invalidating, and I actually found it quite offensive," she said.
"When someone says you didn't have it, and it has actually affected your life, and your life isn't what it was before, it is invalidating."
Ms Hurley was thankful her experience wasn't any worse.
"There are people who have died, or who had it much worse," she said. "As human beings, we like to be in control. I have this sense that people think we'll just vaccinate the world and everything will be fine. But I just don't think it's going to go away tomorrow. I think it is probably going to be here for a long time, if not always."
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