Lauren Arena was like most other children growing up. She played sports, karate, and danced.
But the night before her 10th birthday, that all changed.
"My friends were sleeping over and the alarm clock startled me and I went to turn it off but when I went to come back in bed, my knee hit the bed, and I just fell on the bed and that's all I remember," Arena said.
Lauren experienced her first seizure.
It took countless tests and doctor visits before she was diagnosed with myoclonus epilepsy and ataxia, otherwise known as MEAK.
She's just one of 20 documented cases in the world.
Lauren uses a wheelchair. She suffers from seizures, painful involuntary muscle movement, and slowed speech.
It was a 14 year road to get to a diagnosis – and for much of that time, she was unable to dance.
But she always held out hope to one day be able to get back out there.
At 24 years old, Lauren finally got up the courage to try again. She signed up for a class at "Dance with Me" studios in Glen Rock, New Jersey.
Four years later and it's hard to get her off the dance floor.
"I feel excited, happy, like my illness takes a side seat for a while. It's like I forget I even have an illness for the few minutes that I'm dancing," Arena said.
"Lauren has taught me that anyone can be a dancer. Truly. Whoever wants to, can be one," said David Dowding, a dance instructor.
Her new sense of confidence brought her all the way to this year’s Miss Wheelchair New York Competition where she took home the crown.
Lauren’s win has given her a platform to raise awareness of her "Lauren Arena Foundation for MEAK Research."
It's an organization that not only allows her and her mother to connect with others living with MEAK across the world, but also raises awareness for the disease and funds for research.
"Hopefully she can make a difference. She can take what was dealt her and she can make a difference in the world," said Angela Arena, Lauren's mother.
"Sometimes you go through this rough patch in life to then get what you want. So go through that rough patch, even though it may be bad, and you'll come out like a butterfly," Lauren Arena said.
So, for proving she and others with disabilities are not defined by their limitations, Lauren Arena is our New Yorker of the Week.