Victoria Arlen is an ESPN personality and former Paralympian swimmer who, at age 11, was diagnosed with a neurological condition and an autoimmune disease, which affected her spinal cord and left her in a vegetative state for four years. Arlen slowly regained the ability to speak, eat, walk, and move and now is competing on season 25 of Dancing with the Stars — and is blogging about her experience on the ABC reality show exclusively for PEOPLE. Follow Arlen, 22, and her partner Valentin Chmerkovskiy, 31, on Twitter!
Well, we had a bit of a scare last week.
In the final hours of rehearsal on Monday my right side spasmed and we weren’t sure if I was going to be able to dance. I’ve never been promised that any of my past health issues won’t return, so any time I go through something like this, it’s terrifying. I was in excruciating pain but I still got out there and did my best. The scores were not as high as I would have wanted them to be, but I am just happy that I was physically able to get out on the dance floor.
Every elimination has been nerve-wracking, and it’s always hard to see one of our friends go home — but the pressure was on even more as it was the last elimination before the semifinals. But Val and I made it through and we knew we had a hard week of work ahead of us.
Having gone through what I’ve gone through, I always have to pay close attention to what my body is telling me, but that has been even more the case this past week after Monday. Tuesday we took things slow while I kind of re-calibrated, and by Wednesday, I was back in the rehearsal room in full force.
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We are doing two dances this week, and one of them is a contemporary routine dedicated to my parents. I always loved watching the contemporary dances on the show, and I can’t believe that I get to do one now! It’s so special to get to honor my parents because they’re the reason that I’m here. I’m so glad I have the opportunity to thank them for never giving up on me.
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Our second dance will pay homage to [season 23 winners] Derek Hough and Amber Riley’s Charleston to “Bang Bang” by wil.i.am. Derek and Amber really crushed it — and they went on to win that season — so I’m really honored to get to pay homage to that, but it’s a lot of pressure.
These dances have been really challenging, but it’s the semifinals, and I feel so blessed that I’ve bounced back and can give the 110 percent I wanted to give last week but just didn’t have in me. I hope that all shows tonight.
Dancing with the Stars airs Mondays (8 p.m. ET) on ABC.