There was nothing I ever wanted more than to play Division I soccer in college. The moment I stepped on the field in fifth grade for the first time, I loved the game. I loved everything about it: the speed, the aggression, the strategy, the teamwork. Right through high school, I was a leader on my teams. I transformed into a fighter who would do anything (legal!) to support my teammates and perform my best. There is nothing in my life that has ever made me feel so alive.
During my senior year, two weeks after soccer season ended, I was told I might have a life-threatening heart condition. My dreams completely shattered. Six months later it was confirmed that I have LongQT Syndrome, and competitive sports were no longer an option for me. It twisted and wrenched my heart in a way that no ex-boyfriend could ever come close to doing to a girl. My passion had been stripped from me. A piece of my identity was simply stolen away.
Two months later I was asking my doctor if I could get “one of those metal things” put into my chest in order to play soccer again. He agreed to let me have an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) surgically placed in my chest and wired into my heart. The device would keep me safe, and considering my relative lack of symptoms, I could return to the field.
One month before entering college, I had my first ICD implanted. I went through rehab and trained in the spring of my freshman year with the Division I UMass Amherst soccer team. I quickly returned to great soccer shape and gave the game everything I had. The following summer I showed up for official try-outs, nervous and scared because the doorway to the greatest dream of my life was finally in front of me.
The coach stood before us all, announcing he would not be expanding his roster as originally intended. I did the math. There was one spot left on the team. He needed forwards, and I played defense.
I worked my butt off that week, and I was cut. I’d never been cut from a team in my life, and here it was, the one team that mattered like no other to me.
I concentrated on I what I had, not on what I didn’t. Being cut from that team was one of the best things that could have happened to me. I watched one of my closest friends who was on the team flunk most of her classes because of the time and travel involved. I saved up a good deal of money with an on-campus job, and I was extremely successful in my art major and the UMass Commonwealth College honors program. I went on to conquer the pageant world, becoming Miss Massachusetts and developing a whole new passion that came from educating others and advocating for heart disease awareness through my personal story.
Dreams are so important, and there are some that may never come true for us. On the other side of these “failures,” however, can certainly arise an ambition and sense of enthusiasm for something new and meaningful. Never stop dreaming … just don’t be afraid to restructure and build them as needed.
At 17-years-old Michaela was diagnosed with LongQT Syndrome, one of the conditions responsible for causing Sudden Cardiac Arrest and claiming the lives of many young people unexpectedly. Michaela turned her obstacles into opportunities when she became Miss Massachusetts 2006 and began to speak nationally regarding SCA and heart disease. To learn more about Michaela please visit: www.michaelagagne.com.