ByBrooke Mayo, writer at
Bellator flyweight
Brooke Mayo

My freshman year of college started out like a dream.

I was playing D-I soccer and running sprints and getting the fastest times on my team. I was excelling in the sport I loved so much, then things starting going wrong.

I started feeling excruciating pain in my calves, pain that had never been there before. I remember sitting in class and dreaming about chopping off my legs. The pain was so bad that I'd rather just not have legs — a runner, not wanting legs!

That's how uncomfortable I was. My running times went from the highest to the lowest, seemingly overnight.

I was diagnosed with chronic exertional compartment syndrome, which means my muscles grow too big. It's incredibly rare, and that means the doctors don't quite know how to treat it yet. I've had 25 shots in my legs at one time, and that was just to help alleviate the pain.

Eventually, I had surgery to open up my fascia (the tissue surrounding my muscle) to allow the muscle to continue growing.

I was incredibly upset; it seemed that my soccer dreams were slipping away. I wasn't able to run and do other things that were routine to me before. I felt there was no hope for me to ever become a professional athlete.

Then a friend recommended I try , and suddenly I had hope again.

Now, just three-and-a-half years after stepping on the mats for the first time, I am a professional fighter. I just made my professional debut on one of the biggest stages in MMA.

Still, I've had to change a few things in my life to make sure that I am healthy. I have to avoid putting on too much muscle, so I can't do much running or heavy lifting in my camps, and I avoid eating too much red meat.

I never saw my life going this way, but I am happy that I didn't give up when things got hard. I hope that if you are dealing with something similar, you will look for other options — nothing is completely hopeless.

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