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Thunder Bay’s Rachel Romu Modelling after Diagnosis that Ended Athletics Career

A Thunder Bay, Ont., woman has turned a diagnosis that cut short a promising athletics career into work as a model, and hopes that people with visible disabilities will be better represented in the industry. Growing up, Rachel Romu excelled in track and field, training with Lakehead University’s athletics department and going on to the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore in 2010. But behind her success, she was struggling with chronic pain.

Seven years later, the dream of becoming an Olympic athlete was dashed by physical complications as well as two spinal surgeries. Originally dismissed as athletic injuries, her issues were later diagnosed to be a rare genetic connective tissue disease — Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. Romu received an official diagnosis in March of 2016, and though she can find peace in knowing the cause of her pain, she said there is a long road ahead in terms of pain management and recovery.