"It was devastating. It felt like my world was coming to an end."
Not long after she was married in 1991 Donna Vaughan began to suffer crippling headaches and bouts of dizziness. Doctors were at a loss to explain the cause.
With two young children and a husband at home, Donna relied on pills to dull the pain while sticking to her busy mom's routine, which included soccer practice and martial arts training.
Following a car accident in 2004, Donna's symptoms worsened dramatically. An MRI scan showed part of her brain, the cerebellum, was damaged and shrinking.
Genetic tests confirmed the diagnosis: Donna had a progressive, degenerative disease known as spinocerebellar ataxia. Apparently, she was born with it. The trauma of the car crash, doctors said, likely triggered acceleration of the disease's symptoms.
Donna is gradually losing her ability to speak and walk. There is no cure. Her main goal is staying independent for as long as she can. She's not giving up.
The 46-year-old from Stanbridge East in Quebec's Eastern Townships is staying active by pursuing her fourth-degree black belt in taekwondo. And she credits her ability to visualize out-of-body consciousness with preserving her sanity.
Donna tells StoryNet how she sees the disease as a test of her will to continue living life to its fullest, a test she is passing with flying colours.
Recorded in Bedford, Quebec.