Hi, my name is Dayan R. Solar and this is my story. Growing up in Cuba, I was always involved in sports. At the age of six, I was introduced to tennis, and my passion for other sports grew from there. I spent more than half my life engaged and competing in all types of sports, including karate and rowing. Life in Cuba made competing in sports have a much greater meaning than just winning a game. It is a beautiful island with white beaches, but we were living under a regime that held us down, making us also “compete” in life with the best that we had. When I was nineteen, our family was blessed to be able to emigrate to the United States to pursue that so-called “American Dream”, in the land of opportunities that everyone talked about. For the next five years, we were able to taste and enjoy that freedom. Life was on the right track. But at the age of twenty-four, I became sick and everything changed.
A rare autoimmune disorder started to attack my body, causing damage to my spinal cord and brain. Diseases like multiple sclerosis and transverse myelitis were among the many possible diagnoses as to why my immune system was attacking me. While doctors were puzzling over what was causing it and how to treat it, my ability to walk was fading away, until eventually I had no other choice but to use a wheelchair.
It has been eight long and tedious years since that time. Along with my mobility, I also lost my hopes, career dreams, hobbies, and even some friends. "My American Dream” as I imagined it, was gone. Although I’ve had plenty of lows, and even when I’ve hit rock bottom, one thing has kept me going. My competitive spirit was still inside, and it has been my motivation to not give up, to take one more punch and get back up, to keep raising the bar each time, and never quit.
When I recently discovered Wheelchair Tennis, my life changed completely. Each time I’m on the court I feel that freedom again. Each stroke on the ball feels like a punch back at life, and each push on my chair gives me the power to control my game. I keep reinventing myself in ways I never thought possible. The thrill of competition has become possible for me again, and it has played a huge role in my life, health, and well-being. I once again can hope, dream, and get excited about clear new goals and with them my Dream has returned.