Hi, my name is Cori Fischer and this is my story. In 2012 at the age of 12, I went from being a competitive gymnast to having trouble walking. Little did I know at this time what life was going to throw at me, and boy was it a curveball. I was eventually diagnosed with a neurological movement disorder called Dystonia.

Dystonia is a movement disorder in which muscles contract involuntarily, causing repetitive or twisting movements. 

The condition can affect one part of your body (focal dystonia), two or more adjacent parts (segmental dystonia) or all parts of your body (general dystonia). The spasms can range from mild to severe. They may be painful and can interfere with the performance of day-to-day tasks.

There’s no cure for dystonia, but medications and orthotic interventions can improve symptoms. 

Being only in 8th grade at the time, I felt frustrated and embarrassed and wondered why I had to go through this journey feeling so alone. Because of the Dystonia and the deformities that it caused, I have had eight leg surgeries and many rounds of BOTOX® injections and phenol nerve blocks. It has been a very long road with many obstacles. I never thought I would have to worry about walking, falling, or how I looked with my limbs dragging behind me. I never thought I would have to worry about what others thought of my many scars, and how others would stare at me. Unfortunately, even after 9 years, the pain, countless doctor appointments, weekly physical therapy appointments, surgeries, spasms, and countless stares are still very much a part of my daily life. It wasn’t until recently however, that I have recognized how much purpose Dystonia and its obstacles have given me. Dystonia could ruin my days if I let it, and I am going to be honest, some days it does.

But I had to decide whether to let this take over my life or to continue on the amazing future I had right in front of me. Dystonia has allowed me to have experiences and lessons in life that many people do not get to experience. It isn’t my diagnosis that I hope sticks with people, but instead, no matter how hard things get, you just have to keep going. It truly is all about mindset, and what you think you can do, you can truly do. There have been multiple times and reasons when I could have given up, but I didn’t, because I want to accomplish my dreams of becoming a pediatric OT.

My journey isn’t just about me, it’s a story about grit, advocacy, and continuing to push through even though there are barriers standing in the way. We all have that fire inside of us that pushes us to do better and to continue on, amidst hard challenges; sometimes you just have to find it!

Part of finding that fire is being open to using assistive devices and the many resources available to those of us with mobility issues.  For me, this includes wearing leg braces, or ankle-foot-orthoses (AFOs) to help manage my gait. I’ve become so grateful for my Allard braces, which I’ve had for about four years now; they changed how I am able to walk and participate in daily life. Most importantly, they are helping me conquer my dreams of becoming a Pediatric Occupational Therapist.

So – to the Allard tribe and everyone wearing AFOs – I challenge you to go out there and show the world how amazing you and your wonderful braces are! Our orthotic devices allow us to make our own mark and leave a very unique footprint in the world! Remember, a disability doesn’t stop you from chasing your dreams. You GOT THIS, and whatever you put your mind and heart to in life, you will succeed!

Cori Fischer is now 22 years old and in her 4th year of a 5-year accelerated Master’s Occupational Therapy program. She has also had the “incredible opportunity” to intern for Trend-Able, and looks forward to empowering children with special needs once she becomes a certified Pediatric Occupational Therapist.