ALLY O'Connor's world turned upside down when she woke up on Christmas Day in pain.
A bout of food poisoning the previous week had unearthed a sinister gene - reactive arthritis.
The diagnosis put a halt to the South Warrnambool teenager's budding netball career and forced her to postpone her university commitments in Melbourne.
O'Connor, 19, had made Vic Fury's open team and was excited about playing in the Australian Netball League.
But the pain in her left ankle and wrist forced her to withdraw.
"I couldn't walk on my left foot," O'Connor said of her Christmas Day nightmare.
"I was like 'oh my God, did I break it?'. I wasn't sure.
"That night I was in incredible pain so we went up to ER and I was in hospital for a few days and no one really knew what was going on.
"It (the pain) went to my wrist too and the diagnosis was made."
O'Connor is now playing a waiting game as she undertakes a series of medical trials.
Doctors say the condition can last anywhere between six and 18 months, while for a small percentage of people it remains a life-long battle.
"I have good and bad days. Some days I'll wake up and I'll feel great and other days I will be stiff and sore and can't really walk properly," she said.
"My body has to react to the medication. My immune system is down as well, so as soon as that gets back up I should be on the right track."
O'Connor, who wants to study nutrition, has advice at her fingertips.
Her mum Deanne is a nurse and dad Jock a paramedic. Older brother Nick, 24, followed his father's footsteps.
"Mum's tried everything, even diets and special supplements. I've done pretty much everything," she said.
"She's been a really big help, especially in the early months as well because for about two months I couldn't sleep because of the pain and she always stayed up with me.
"She's been beautiful about it, which is nice, and the same with dad."
O'Connor said being sidelined from netball was frustrating and the illness had only enhanced her passion for the sport and her desire to succeed.
She still harbours ambitions of playing for Vic Fury and is doing all she can to return to peak fitness.
"I am seeing a podiatrist, a hand therapist, physio - everyone under the sun basically just to get it under control," O'Connor said.
The Emmanuel College graduate is keeping her mind busy too.
Her new puppy Rumi has helped with her mental health and she's working full-time with split shifts which suit her condition.
Netball remains a big part of her schedule too.
"I have a job which is good, I love it. I am working at F45, so that's been really good," O'Connor said.
"I have been able to keep in the fitness industry without having to do the fitness.
"I am busy here at South too, coaching the division one side and helping the 15 and unders as well as the open team."
The illness has also given O'Connor a greater empahthy for people going through hardships.
"You don't get an appreciation for your health until something's happened to it," she said.
Have you signed up to The Standard's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in the south-west.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.