It’s easy for us to become discouraged when things aren’t going the way that we want them to go. It’s even easier to just give up when this happens, rather than put in the effort to change things. This young girl was faced with a life-threatening illness, but instead of listening to the doctors, she fought with everything she had to take back control of her mind, her body, and ultimately, her life.When Victoria Arlen came into the world she was the first child to arrive in a set of triplets. Obviously, her family was more than excited to welcome the three bundles of joy into their family. When Victoria was just a young child, she was bright-eyed and friendly just like her brothers, and her parents knew deep down that Victoria would help make the world a better place one day.
Since Victoria was the only daughter in the family, she looked up to her brothers to show her the ways of the world. Oddly enough, Victoria didn’t take the backseat in her relationship with her brothers. Victoria’s strong-willed nature allowed her to become the leader of the three. But regardless of that, Victoria had the unconditional love of her brothers.
Like a lot of people, Victoria spent beginning part of her childhood trying to figure out who she was and what she liked. After some time, she began to lean towards playing sports, like competitive dance and swimming. She always managed to stay quite busy with her extracurriculars, and after spending so much time competing with her brothers, she was turning into an amazing athlete.
It was always obvious how much energy and enthusiasm that Victoria had for life. And more often than not, there wasn’t a challenge that she wasn’t willing to accept. Sadly, Victoria’s life would drastically change for the worse when she was just 11 years old.
One morning, Victoria woke up with shooting pains that went up and down the right side of her body. Her parents assumed that she was just having some muscle aches because of how active she was. But they still became concerned about Victoria because she had never experienced something like this before.
Unfortunately, the pain that Victoria was experiencing never went away. Within two weeks of the initial problem, Victoria had completely lost her ability to walk. Her family was in utter disbelief. They had no idea what was happening, and they would soon realize that this was only the beginning of the struggle that their daughter would be facing.
The doctors diagnosed her with two rare conditions: transverse myelitis and acute disseminated encephalomyelitis. There was very little hope for her recovery. Victoria described what was happening, “My back and side ached, so doctors took out my appendix. Then my legs began giving out. My foot dragged. Within two weeks, I lost all feeling and function in my legs. Next, my hands stopped working. I couldn’t control my arms, couldn’t swallow properly or find the right words when I wanted to speak. It was as if someone was slowly shutting down the switches on the circuit board that controlled my body and brain. I was slowly slipping away from my family. Then everything went dark.”
It wasn’t long before Victoria had lost her ability to speak, as well. She also began to lose control of all of her motor functions. She was having seizures constantly. Her parents empowered her to fight and get stronger. But what they didn’t realize was that Victoria was most definitely alert, she was just trapped inside of her own body.
Victoria’s condition was the perfect example of how looks can be deceiving. Victoria could hear every single thing that was going on around her, but she couldn’t respond to anything. At one point, she could hear the doctors tell her family that they should give up on her, but they refused to let their daughter slip even further away.
One day while lying in bed, Victoria had an epiphany. She realized this was not the way her life was supposed to be. She made a promise to God that if she could get a second chance at life she would not waste a single moment.
After 4 years of being in a vegetative state, Victoria started to regain control of parts of her body. It was a miracle! From that point, she knew she had to keep going so she pushed to get better each day. She got back into the water the same year in August of 2010.
Victoria was ready to fight for her body and her life. No one could believe it when Victoria slowly began to regain almost all of her bodily functions. She was having a bit of trouble getting her legs to work, but with the help of a wheelchair, she was able to get where she needed to go.
Victoria had a lot that she needed to catch up on. After all, she had just missed four whole years of her life! She wanted to graduate with her siblings, so she had a lot of work to do. Despite her challenges, Victoria was able to get her diploma at the same time as her brothers.
Even though she had already overcome so much, there were still some things that Victoria wanted to achieve. Victoria became determined to get the use of her legs back as soon as possible. This meant that she would have to go through intensive physical therapy. It wasn’t going to be easy, but Victoria was driven to prove to everyone who had ever doubted her, like the doctors overseeing her care, that she was capable of anything.
Victoria joined a group called the Northeast Passage. The group’s mission was to help people with disabilities participate in different sports. Soon enough, Victoria realized that she was really into playing hockey. But what’s even better was that she was pretty good at it, as well.
Victoria’s hockey coach knew that she was also extremely passionate about swimming. Eventually, he convinced her to start swimming competitively, even though he liked having her on the ice. Since she wasn’t able to use her legs, it didn’t take long for Victoria to become accustomed to being in the water again.
In just two years, Victoria was breaking through every obstacle that was ever put in front of her. When she was just 17, Victoria competed in the Paralympic Olympic Games in London. But Victoria didn’t just compete in the games, she brought home three silver medals and one gold one!
With her family and a dedicated trainer by her side, Victoria started an organization called Project Walk. The mission of the organization was to help victims of paralysis reclaim their body and take their first steps. Just one year later, Victoria was saying goodbye to her very own crutches!
Soon enough, ESPN got wind of Victoria and her miraculous story of strength, recovery, and determination. The well-known sports organization couldn’t believe what Victoria had achieved, so they made her a correspondent on their network! Victoria had received such an incredible opportunity, but she would soon see that there were even bigger things in store for her.
ABC, the network that hosts the show Dancing with the Stars, reached out to Victoria. They explained to her that they wanted her to take a spot on the hit TV show! She graciously accepted their offer and was partnered with the professional dancer, Valentin Chmerkovskiy. Victoria was more than ready to show the world that she deserved her spot on the show.
On the 25th season of Dancing with the Stars, the world saw Victoria dominate the competition. Victoria and Chmerkovskiy made it all the way to the semifinals of the show. They may not have won first place, but they left every single one of the viewers and judges in awe. She may have proved to the world that she was unstoppable, but winning runner up wasn’t quite enough for her.
Victoria’s mindblowing story is an inspiration to anyone living with a disability or illness. Well, actually she’s an inspiration to anyone going through any kind of hardship. Thank you, Victoria, you have shown the world that with enough determination, anything is possible!