Fans of Dancing With the Stars have been captivated by Victoria Arlen‘s story during Season 25 of the show. She often talks about her illness on the hit dancing competition, which has left many viewers curious about the Paralympic swimmer and ESPN sportscaster’s battle. Scroll down to learn all about the illness that shaped her into the woman she is today!

She was diagnosed with a rare neurological condition and an autoimmune disease.

Victoria battled transverse myelitis and acute disseminated encephalomyelitis beginning in 2005. Soon after the diagnosis, she lost the ability to eat, move, walk, and even talk.

She was very young when she was diagnosed.

At just 11 years old, Victoria’s life took a tragic turn. She spent four years of her life — until her early teenage years — dealing with the unfortunate illness.

She was in a vegetative state for four years of her life.

For all that time, she had no idea what was going on — she was just trapped inside her body. The worst part? The doctors didn’t think she would ever recover, which was extremely hard on her parents, Jaqueline and Larry. In 2010, she began to re-learn how to eat, move, and talk.

She was in a wheelchair until 2016

After nearly 10 years of paralyzation, Victoria learned to walk again. However, she never really gained feeling back in her legs, as she openly talks about on DWTS.

She’s wanted to be on Dancing With the Stars since she was a little girl.

When she was 10 years old, just one year before her life-changing diagnosis, Victoria told her mom she wanted to be a contestant on the show someday. “When I was sick, my parents would remember that dream and put DWTS on the TV so I could watch it. It was always a motivating factor to start my recovery but I never imagined I would actually do it,” she told People. Well, her dream came true and now she’s in the top 5 this season with her pro partner, Val Chmerkovskiy!