Burned and bruised, the contestant leans on her partner as they rehearse the paso doble

By Melissa Gilbert
Updated April 09, 2012 09:50 AM
Credit: Bob D'Amico/ABC

Paso doble!

Bruises are not sexy. Neither are burns, cuts, scrapes, sore muscles and calloused feet.

However, when the burns, cuts, scrapes, soreness and calluses are covered with spray tan, it looks instantly better. Add in some very sexy choreography, some sequins and the dance partner who makes women all over the world swoon, and, baby, you have the paso doble.

This week of Dancing has been a killer. I have a burn on my ankle from being dragged across the floor by Maks. It will scar. No question. The scar is mine. I earned it by working really hard. As crazy as it sounds the scar will become a symbol for me. It is a symbol of life without limitations.

Here’s what I’ve had working against me:
I will be 48 in a few weeks – definitely past retirement for a dancer.
My spine is fused in two places now – last surgery was about a year and half ago.
I was not in the best cardiovascular shape of my life when this started.

Here’s what I have working for me:
I am only 47 years old.
My surgeons are geniuses.
My dance partner, choreographer, teacher and trainer is brilliant. Truly. He’s also incredibly patient (Yes, Maksim Chmerkovskiy is patient-ish). By day three of this week, I stood staring at him like my brains were coming out of my ears. Not a clue where to go, what to do. Completely overloaded.

He said this; “I wish you believed in you like I believe in you.”

Wow! Twenty years of therapy, daily study of religions all over the world, constant attempts at self-improvement and growth … and Maks sums it all up in one sentence.

So, my job this week is to believe.
Believe that I can dance.
Believe that Maks will catch me.
Believe that my life can be limitless.
Believe in love … hope … and trust. After all, those are the words tattooed on my left wrist. It is my family’s motto.
Four simple words that can change everything:

Love, trust, hope, believe.