Move, please (2006-2016)
For a decade, I thought about these words over and over again as I would stare at my muscle-atrophied, lifeless and paralyzed legs. Remembering so vividly how easy it once was to get out of bed, run up the stairs and put one foot in front of the other. But a rare condition known as Transverse Myelitis took that away from me. At the age of 11, I watched helplessly as my legs quite literally gave out from under me.
And I remember the first time I said those two words. It was early summer in 2006, my legs, over the course of about a week and a half, had started to give out, become weaker and even numb. But I could always power through. That's how I always got through things; fall down and stand back up. If you feel wobbly, hold on and keep pushing. Just put one foot in front of the other. I had gotten used to very quickly falling or stumbling but always powering through.
But on that fateful morning, everything changed, I couldn't get up. "Move. Please." Nothing.
What would follow aside from a devastating diagnosis would be an even worse prognosis.
"You will never walk again."
I heard that over and over.
"You will never walk again."
You need to accept that you're going to spend the rest of your life in a wheelchair."
Again, those words were on repeat.
"You need to accept that you're going to spend the rest of your life in a wheelchair."
While it's good to have perspective, I learned something quickly: Accept the diagnosis, NOT the prognosis.
The prognosis I had in mind was very different.
Fast Forward: 2020
I'm not just WALKING, I'm RUNNING.
Last week at the Walk Disney Marathon weekend, I found myself uttering these words: "Move, please."
Except this time I was no longer talking to my legs (although they sometimes need a reminder, too).
I was instead talking to the other runners that I was PASSING at the Walt Disney World 5K in Orlando, Florida. As I ran through the countries at Epcot in the early hours of the morning, I couldn't help but think about a few key things: For a decade, every single morning I'd battle to try to move something, anything below my waist.
And how I'd literally have to give myself a pep talk just to sit in my wheelchair. I remember the thousands of hours I spent at Project Walk (the paralysis recovery center my family built for me) with my trainers dripping in sweat just to move one foot in front of the other. I remember the first time I stood without crutches, then took a step without braces and support. I remembered it all, I embraced it all and I kept running. Running for those who like me just three years ago couldn't. And I will keep doing that.
I'm just getting started.
For those going through a tough time or facing an impossible challenge, keep going, keep fighting. Keep believing. Your impossible can become possible.
Paralympian gold medalist Victoria Arlen joined ESPN in December 2015 as a features reporter and works as a host and reporter.