People living with chronic illness are often overlooked in society. As someone who has been through dark times and is living with complex health, Dani Fusaro knows what that’s like. But she is changing the way people view individuals with chronic illness through her platform.
Dani Fusaro began to experience her health failing in 2015. Her condition worsened when she was at the end of her first year in graduate school for physical therapy. Dani found it challenging to cope with her studies and laboratory activities because of her crashing health. She found her world changing. In what seemed like a few days, she went from being active to experiencing nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath, forgetfulness, and passing out in the middle of activities. She also had a hard time eating because of the constant and high amounts of pain.
Dani Fusaro sought medical help, but they were not as intensive because she still wanted to remain in school. At that time, she was only diagnosed with a severe chronic infection and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. Her professors were aware of her failing health and urged her to file a medical leave. Afraid that she might not finish her degree if she took a break, she pushed through with her education.
Dani Fusaro understands how hard it is to continue to strive in school while being undiagnosed. While she was trying to figure out what was wrong with her, she discovered that many others are going through the same circumstances so she was motivated to finish her degree and become a physical therapist for someone like her. Dani’s condition worsened more each day as she juggled her time and energy between her school obligations and doctor’s appointments. Still, Dani persevered until she graduated.
As soon as she finished school, Dani Fusaro fully committed herself to seek medical treatment. She was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, Gastroparesis, Spinal Instability, and an immune deficiency called Selective Antibody Deficiency. Despite having multiple illnesses, Dani remained optimistic to get back to tip-top shape within six months.
Dani Fusaro saw her condition as a temporary fallback. During that time, she was hyperfocused on her symptoms, grew angry at her condition, and felt uncertain about the future. She was desperate for validation from other people. While her colleagues were pursuing careers in the medical field, Dani felt stuck behind. “I realized that I wasn’t living. I was so sick and continually pushing things off, so I was essentially just existing,” Dani said.
After three years, her condition did not get better. Eventually, instead of further wallowing in her worries and self-pity, Dani Fusaro faced her complex health condition head-on and differently. “We grow up learning how to deal with short-term illness, but no one talks about the person living with chronic illness. You can accept where you are. Give yourself grace for your limitations, and still try to improve your circumstances. They’re not mutually exclusive” Dani said. It took her quite some time to change her mindset and accept her circumstances, but it set her free when she did.
Today, beyond inspiring others with her story, Dani Fusaro wants to empower others living with chronic illness to focus on cultivating joy and finding validation within themselves. Instead of waiting for herself to be healed entirely, Dani redirects her energy to do the best that she can with where her health is right now. Through her blog, Days with Dani Nicole, she empowers with resilience and hope.
On top of that, Dani Fusaro is a disabled model and aims to increase the visibility of people with medical devices in the fashion industry. In her case, she has a device called a port-a-cath in her chest. Dani is also using her degree as a telehealth physical therapist and consultant for people with complex genetic conditions.
Dani Fusaro and her brand are dedicated to a community of people with chronic illness and make them feel that they are not alone; that they too are worthy. “It’s okay if they lost their identity to illness, but that doesn’t mean it’s lost forever. It can be found again and I can help them find it,” said Dani.