FOND DU LAC (WKOW) -- For many, the holidays are a time filled with wonder and joy, but for those dealing with chronic pain, the holidays are a time hope is needed most.
That is why a Fond du Lac woman with a rare chronic pain condition is sharing her story to gift hope to others.
"Life can change in literally an instant," Michelle Donicht said. "My life literally stopped on July 27, 2018."
While on vacation with her family at Lake Geneva, Donicht jumped off a dock and broke her ankle.
"Broken ankle," Donicht thought at the time. "No big deal."
She didn't know it at the time, but a diagnosis brought on by that brake would mean she wouldn't walk for years.
"It just continued to get worse and worse," she said.
Eventually, Donicht was diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, or CRPS.
According to the Mayo Clinic, that is a type of chronic pain disorder that typically develops after an injury, surgery, stroke or heart attack. It usually impacts an arm or a leg.
"CRPS is nicknamed the suicide disease, and it's nicknamed that for a reason," Donicht said. "The McGill Pain Scale shows that it is at the top of all pain known to medicine. At this point, there's no cure."
After her diagnosis, Donicht began a trying journey of 11 surgeries and over 50 procedures to treat her pain to no avail. Sadly, she lost her job, her social life and her joy because she could not walk without pain.
"It's a very lonely diagnosis because so many people don't believe how bad the pain can be," Donicht said.
Finally, Donicht found a doctor who found the right treatment for her. It was just in the nick of time because she and her family were considering amputating part of her leg in hopes the pain would go with it.
"Her success for me is inspiring," Dr. Mansoor Aman, Pain Management Physician at the Aurora Health Center in Oshkosh said.
Dr. Aman was able to treat Donicht with peripheral nerve stimulation, a technique in which electrodes are placed along the course of peripheral nerves to control the pain.
"I think that her story offers a message of hope for those patients that are dealing with chronic pain," Aman said.
Now, after years of suffering, the mother and grandmother is walking again, and sharing her story for others who may be walking similar paths.
"Know when something is wrong and advocate for yourself," Donicht said. "And, know that: 'There's always hope.' Don't give up. Find something. For me it was my family and my grandchildren."
Donicht is also dreaming bigger than ever before.
"I really want to zip line. like I want to go into hot air balloon," Donicht said. "I want to do things that I totally was not able to do the last four years, much less even think about."
In addition to advocating for yourself and keeping hope alive, Donicht recommends anyone struggling with their health lean on those they love and join support groups.