Victoria Arlen

Victoria Arlen has overcome enormous difficulties in her life, and now has her sights set on her next challenge—“Dancing With the Stars”. This week on “The Ellen Show”, Arlen talked about her incredible journey from a fully vegetative state to joining the newest cast of the popular dance competition show.

At the age of 11, Arlen was struck with two rare neurological disorders, transverse myelitis and acute disseminated encephalomyelitis. “Basically, my body attacked my brain and my spinal cord.”

Because the conditions took almost three years to diagnose correctly, Arlen lost her chance to pursue treatment paths that could have prevented what came next.

“It went misdiagnosed,” the now-22 year old said during the interview, “So I lost every ability possible and slipped into a vegetative state and was pretty much written off as a lost cause.”

But Arlen did not write herself off, despite overhearing the words of her less than hopeful doctors.

“I just had so much life that I wanted to live, so I wasn’t done yet. So I didn’t really care what the doctors were saying.” After nearly four years in a completely vegetative state, unable to move or react, but still fully conscious, Arlen began to regain her ability to speak.

Two years later, she took home four medals at the 2012 Summer Paralympics in swimming. By 2015 she had begun to walk again. And now, she is appearing on the 25th season of “Dancing With the Stars”.

And Now.... We TANGO #TeamViVa #DWTS

A post shared by Victoria Arlen (@arlenv1) on

“When I was ten, I actually told my mom that I was going to be on the show,” Arlen told Ellen. “When I was five I told her I was going to win a gold medal, so she just kind of put it on my bucket list of things I wanted to do.”

When I was five I was asked by my teacher "what do you want to do when you grow up" my response "win a gold medal". And I'm sure you can imagine her response. But despite the odds and circumstances I achieved that lifelong dream five years ago today. To be honest I don't know where I would be without that experience. To me it was more than winning a gold medal, that moment was a moment where I knew and truly felt alive for the first time in a really long time. Two years prior to this moment I was waking up from a four year vegetative state and feeling "alive" was the last thing I felt. And this "dream" I had seemed unattainable; impossible actually. But who says you can't do the impossible? #ProvePeopleWrong :facepunch::skin-tone-3:

A post shared by Victoria Arlen (@arlenv1) on

One of the lasting side effects of Arlen’s condition is complete numbness in her legs. She compared the experience of learning to walk with that of learning to dance, saying: “Even just with walking, it was right, left, right, left. And I had to keep telling myself that. And so, when I signed on to do the show, there was kind of like ‘Oh, I have to not only go right, left, but I have to turn and look up, and I have to stay graceful.’”

Grace personified, she is now entering her fourth week in the show. You can catch Arlen’s performances this season on ABC, Mondays at 8pm ET/9pm CT.