The tennis legend underwent extensive treatment for breast cancer in 2010, which she said weakened her physically and took a tremendous emotional toll.
Navratilova became the first celebrity voted off Dancing with the Stars on Tuesday, March 27, but stressed that the opportunity to move beyond illness has far outweighed the disappointment of her elimination.
"I just wanted to get to be free to get over 2010, which was a big struggle for me. I wanted to encourage women to get screened for breast cancer and wanted to tell my story," she explained to Us Weekly.
Navratilova's professional partner Tony Dovolani said he has treasured spending time with the athlete as they trained for Dancing with the Stars.
"I wish everyone got the chance to learn what I've learned about her," Dovolani said.
"She's one of the most wonderful people I've ever gotten the chance to work with. She's a female icon and probably the kindest heart I've come across in a long time."
Dancing with the Stars airs Mondays at 8/7c and Tuesdays at 9/8c on ABC.
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Watch the first Dancing with the Stars elimination of the season below: