Victoria Arlen is an ESPN personality and former Paralympian swimmer and 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!
Last Monday was an emotional night.
Val and I had worked so hard on our paso doble and I’d been so excited to bring a hockey rink into the ballroom, but then we were told we were in jeopardy of being eliminated just a few minutes before we were set to dance. There were definitely tears backstage because I have worked so hard to get to this point. I have worked so hard to get my legs to the point where they are able to do what they’re doing and we still have so much more we want to do in this competition.
Val saw me getting emotional and said, “We have to go dance and fight for this – fight harder than we ever have before.” Val is my friend and looks out for me and helps me so, we powered through it together.
Luckily, we were not eliminated and I’m really proud of our paso doble. It’s made me really take to heart that I have to trust God’s plan and that there is a reason I am here and that there is more work to be done. Every time I dance it’s a tremendous blessing and I just can’t forget that.
This week is Halloween Night and Val and I are doing a beautiful, ghostly Viennese waltz; we also have a ballroom-inspired group dance with [Vanessa Lachey & Maksim Chmerkovskiy, Frankie Muniz & Witney Carson, and Drew Scott & Emma Slater.]
Learning the team dance has been awesome. I love Vanessa and Frankie and Drew. We have a great chemistry, all of us together. We’d all hung out prior to this, so it’s a really fun group. And all the pros are awesome. We’ve got [brother] Maks and Val together and it’s been really fun to learn from Emma and Witney. They are such beautiful dancers, so they show me a lot and I can follow them. Everyone has their own unique style of dance and teaching, so it’s fun to have us all come together and learn something beautiful.
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Learning two dances in one week has been a lot, but at this point in the competition we have to step it up so that’s what I’m doing. My legs are struggling a bit but I’m going to power through it. This whole competition I’ve been suffering through symptoms from my spinal cord injury. My spasms are definitely worse; walking is not always easy, and my legs get fatigued from dancing, but I’ve got a great team looking out for me and keeping me upright. I can’t wait to show off what we can do tonight!
Dancing with the Stars airs Mondays (8 p.m. ET) on ABC.