The 22-year-old Paralympian swimmer and ESPN personality blogged for People magazine right before the Season 25 premiere on Monday night. She said that after she was diagnosed with two rare autoimmune conditions at age 11, her parents used "Dancing" to inspire her through her serious health struggles.
Her diagnosis more than a decade ago, she said, included transverse myelitis and acute disseminated encephalomyelitis. The two conditions, according to the Mayo and Cleveland clinics, affect the spinal cord and brain and can cause "paralysis, sensory problems" and even trigger coma.
Arlen said the conditions left her in a vegetative state for almost four years.
"When I was 10 years old, 'Dancing with the Stars' premiered, and I told my mom, 'I’m going to be on that show one day,'" she wrote for People. "We, of course, had no idea that just a year later, even surviving would seem almost impossible."
After her dual diagnosis, Arlen's body began to shut down and in a video aired during last night's premiere, she explained what it felt like.
"The lights when out," Arlen said. "I was trapped inside my body, unable to move, talk and function ... I had to prepare for the possibility of dying."
"When the opportunity came about to do the show, I thought about little Victoria and all the things that I’ve overcome, and I just thought this would be a really cool opportunity to show people that anything is possible," she continued in her blog post for People.
But it won't come easy, she admitted.
During last night's premiere, Arlen and her partner scored a 19, putting them near the top of the leaderboard.
"Today my life has limitless possibilities," she added in the video for the premiere. "Today, I can say I've realized another dream; being a contestant on 'Dancing With the Stars.'"
Season 25 of "Dancing With the Stars" continues next Monday and Tuesday on ABC.