Woman Trapped In Her Own Mind Fights To Save Her Promising Life

Picture this: you feel awake but your eyes are closed. For an unknown reason, you have no control over any of your muscles. You can hear everything happening around you, but you’re completely trapped inside your brain’s black abyss of thoughts. Sounds terrifying, right?

Eleven-year-old Victoria Arlen showed athletic promise: the fifth-grader could swim and dance with the best of her class. But then, one morning, she woke up to find herself living through that terrifying scenario. All of a sudden, she was in a silent fight to restore her promising life…

When Victoria Arlen, the first to arrive of three triplets, was born, her family was ecstatic. From an early age, she, like her two brothers, was wide-eyed and friendly, and her parents had an inkling she’d grow up to help change the world for the better.

As the only daughter in the family, Victoria always had her brothers to look up to; but funny enough, her strong-willed nature had her leading the triplet crew.

Over the years, she gravitated towards sports like swimming and competitive dancing. She always kept busy, and, after competing so often with her brothers, was turning out to be quite an athlete.

Victoria’s energy and enthusiasm for life were always apparent; it seemed like there wasn’t any challenge too big to face. All this changed, however, one morning when she was only 11 years old.

She woke up with shooting pains up and down her right side. Her parents chalked it up to muscle aches due to her active nature, but it was something that had never happened before, which concerned them.

The pain never let up, and within two weeks of the initial discomfort, Victoria completely lost the ability to walk. Her family was stunned, and they had no idea this was just the beginning of their problems…

With Victoria’s legs stopped responding, her parents rushed her to the hospital for answers. Doctors couldn’t seem to pinpoint the root cause of Victoria’s problem, but it was getting worse by the minute.

Soon enough, Victoria’s ability to speak was gone. She lost control of her motor functions and fell into what doctors and her family believed to be a coma. However, Victoria was actually very much alert — just trapped in her own body!

Even though Victoria looked like she was in a state of unconsciousness, she was able to hear every conversation around her. Doctors told her parents to give up hope, but they refused.

Four years after the illness first struck, a medical team administered her a new sedative. Whether this would work, no one could know for certain. But when you’ve got a now 15-year-old trapped in her own mind, you do whatever you can.

Miraculously, Victoria started to physically feel her body shortly after the first sedative dose! Then, she locked eyes with her mother one afternoon, and that told her family everything they needed to know: she was still alive and ready for the fight of her life.

To the shock of everyone around her, Victoria’s body slowly regained nearly all function. The only obstacle was her legs; upon leaving the hospital, she was confined to a wheelchair. She refused to let it slow her down.

Determined to graduate high school with her siblings, she feverishly studied up on all the school she’d missed over the past four years. Lo and behold, she managed to receive her diploma right alongside her brothers!

Still, Victoria was determined to get the strength in her legs back, and that meant intensive physical therapy. It was never easy, but she was on a mission to prove everyone who doubted her recovery wrong.

Being the athletic person she was, she joined a group called the Northeast Passage, which helped people with disabilities participate in sports. Victoria found herself especially drawn to hockey. 

Victoria’s hockey coach knew she also had a passion for swimming, and, even though she was a star on the ice, he convinced her to hit the pool competitively. Without the use of her legs, Victoria immediately felt at home in the water.

Astonishingly, at 17 years of age, Victoria, who had only been back swimming for two years, competed in the Paralympic Olympic Games in London. Not only did she compete, but she brought home three silver medals and one gold!

The world could do nothing but watch Victoria conquer it, and with the help of her family and a dedicated trainer, she started Project Walk, an organization dedicated to helping victims of paralysis take their first steps. One year later, she ditched the crutches for good.

All the attention Victoria was getting eventually reached ESPN. The sports organization was so blown away by her achievements they made her a correspondent! As amazing as this opportunity was, it didn’t hold a candle to what happened soon after…

ABC, the television network that ran Dancing with the Stars, called Victoria and offered her a spot on the show! She was partnered with a professional dancer named Valentin Chmerkovskiy, and she was more than ready to show the world she deserved the spotlight!

The twenty-fifth season of Dancing with the Stars saw Victoria Arlen and her partner reach the semifinals of the competition. Although they didn’t win first place, they both left everyone stunned — and that was a win enough for her.

Her story is an inspiration to anyone facing hardship, and she’s proof that an “I can do anything” attitude can get you through the hardest times. This attitude was one echoed by Becca Longo of Arizona.

By the age of four, Becca Longo could already stand up on water skis. By the time she turned nine, she could launch a soccer ball a few dozen yards into the back of a well-defended goal.

Becca Longo / Instagram

She had a brother, Bobby, who was 11 years her senior. Though he wasn’t big on roping soccer balls in his free time, he did excel on the high school football field as a defensive end. Athletically, he challenged her.

Becca Longo / Instagram

As kids, they played a game: they’d swim out into Phoenix’s Lake Pleasant, and, while treading water, throw a football at each other as hard they could. Once, Bobby threw a tight spiral at Becca when she wasn’t looking.

For most, this would’ve ended with a Marsha Brady ow my nose moment. But Becca, after getting smacked with the ball, swam over to her brother, cocked back her hand, and smacked him so hard on the back it turned bright red.

This competitive drive and toughness never left Becca, and in her freshman year at Queen Creek High School in Chandler, Arizona, she became a star soccer and basketball player. Towards the end of the year, though, she saw something that didn’t sit right with her.

Becca Longo / Instagram

Queen Creek’s football team was practicing, and Becca noticed not a single woman lined up with the guys on the gridiron. Once again, her competitive drive flared.

So the talented soccer player took a trip 20 minutes south to Gilbert Christian High School, where the Arizona Cardinals hosted a prestigious football kicking camp attended by the state’s best kickers. All male.

There, she impressed, earning attention from Alex Zendejas, who’d coached seven all-state kickers in the previous ten years and had four family members who’d kicked in the NFL. “I was amazed at how much power Becca had,” Alex said.

Three days per week, the kicking expert worked with Becca, refining her rough technique and cultivating her natural talent. If she missed a kick, she’d grab another ball and try again — a habit she’d picked up from years of trying to outdo her brother.

Becca Longo / Instagram

Eventually, in 2014, the strong-legged soccer player marched into Queen Creek’s athletic director’s office her sophomore year and told him she’d be trying out to be the football team’s kicker. He laughed at her.

Becca Longo / Instagram

“A lot of people think, ‘Aw. She’s a girl. She can’t do this. She’s not strong enough, she’s not big enough,'” Becca said. “I think it’s just something inside of me. I don’t always have to prove myself — but I always want to.”

Becca Longo / Instagram

Prove herself she did: she made the junior varsity team with ease, and, within fifteen seconds of the game starting, she had to make her first kick — an extra point. A chip shot, relatively speaking, that terrified her.

Becca Longo / Instagram

She ran onto the field. She couldn’t feel her leg — it was shaking, practically vibrating. Her nerves were taking over. “I can’t do this,” she told the player charged with holding the ball for her kick. “Just run it in.” He shook his head. “Becca,” he yelled, “just kick the ball!”

So she did — and it soared through the uprights! The crowd erupted, and in her excitement, she nearly passed out. That year, she made 30 out of 33 extra point attempts, and nailed all four field goals she lined up for — including a season long 30 yarder.

You would think Becca’s success between the uprights would have made her revered within the hallways of Queen Creek High School. Unfortunately, bullies don’t take field goal percentage into consideration.

Becca Longo / Instagram

Becca couldn’t walk through the hallways without hearing snide whispers. When she wore her jersey to school, hushed voices referred to her as the “the girl wearing her boyfriend’s jersey.”

Becca Longo / Instagram

Yep, despite her being a wildly successful kicker, students chose to treat her like a charity case — someone who was on the team because she was a girl, not because she was an elite kicker with a powerful leg.

Becca Longo / Instagram

Even for thick-skinned Becca, this was too much. She wasn’t playing football because she wanted to make a point; her efforts weren’t a social commentary. She just loved football, and she wanted to play. She needed a change.

Becca Longo / Instagram

After consulting with her parents, Becca left the halls of Queen Creek High School behind, transferring down the road to Basha High School instead. There, she hoped, she could make a mark as a football player.

Becca Longo / Instagram

Unfortunately, transfer rules dictated she had to sit out a year, which is just about the worst thing you can tell an ultra-competitive person. Frustrated, Becca trained and trained and trained until making the team her senior year was easy.

Becca Longo / Instagram

As a senior, the coach gave Becca a chance to earn her teammates’ respect when he had her kick in front of the whole team on day one. For every kick she missed, the team had to run sprints. She started at the 7-yard line and backed up five yards with each kick.

She made every kick, including a 42 yarder, an impressive distance for a teenager. “That was the moment that everybody just bought into Becca,” the coach said. She won their respect. She was their kicker — not just the girl on the team.

AZ Central

In her 2016 senior year, she made 92 percent (35 of 38) of her extra point attempts, and those three misses were not inaccurate, just blocked. This success caught the attention of certain people in high places.

Josh Blankenship, the offensive coordinator for the Adams State football team — a division II school located four hours south of Denver in Alamosa, Colorado — needed a kicker for his team. He saw footage of Becca’s two years kicking.

Josh drove down to meet the powerful kicker, and, impressed with her character and competitive drive, offered her a chance to try out for the Adams State team. Wanting to continue to play the game she loved, Becca accepted.

Becca Longo / Instagram

So in a Colorado February — in other words, on a very cold day — Becca, facing high winds, attempted 25 field goals in front of coaches. When she was done with her tryout, Becca was miserable. By her standards, she’d done a terrible job.

Luckily, her standards were incredibly high: the Arizona girl had made 23 of 25 field goal attempts and was automatic from within 35 yards! This convinced the coaches she was right for the team.

In an unprecedented move, coaches offered Becca a scholarship, making her the first woman athlete in history to earn a football scholarship from a Division I or II team! “I was just so grateful that somebody believed in me,” Becca said.

Becca Longo / Instagram

Of course, the scholarship didn’t earn her total respect. “She’s going to get drilled by a 300-pound lineman,” a critic Tweeted. “She’s just a publicity stunt,” another chimed. But Becca, as she’d done with her brother in Lake Pleasant, hit back.

“If they want to think that, they can think that,” she said. “Then I’m just going to kick a game-winning, 55-yard field goal — see how loud they are then. I’ve been doubted in everything I’ve done. Being mentally strong is the only defensive mechanism I have.”

Aaron Ontiveroz / ESPN

As a redshirt freshman — meaning she was on the team, but not part of the active game-day roster — she trained further, determined, like always, to be the best. Soon, she could hit 54-yard field goals. Forty yarders were easy.

In the 2018 season, she was locked in a competition with kickers Tiago Paim and Montana Gomez for the starting job, which Montana secured. That didn’t slow Becca down, though — she just grabbed the dumbbells and kept on training.

Aaron Ontiveroz / ESPN

“She gets after it just like all of us,” Adam State’s senior quarterback Jorge Hernandez said. “She’s not just here to be on the team. She’s here to play.” She fit right in.

Becca Longo / Instagram

Her drive and determination to be the best had few doubting that, eventually, she’d nab the starting role for the Adams State Grizzlies. In the meantime, she was happy just to compete: “I’m playing college football,” she said. “How cool is that?”

Aaron Ontiveroz / ESPN

As of 2019, a woman had never made it to the National Football League, but then again, a woman had never made the Queen Creek team, either. So when Becca Longo looks at the womanless league, she has the same thought she had when she saw the womanless high school team: why not me?

Becca Longo / Instagram

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