Telling my mum, who was already very poorly and in hospital, was emotional but her reaction was priceless. She was so excited for me.
Losing her just before the show started has made the whole experience bittersweet, but it has also been my lifeline. Having something so positive for me, and my family, to focus on at such a sad time has been incredible.
And the person I need to thank, above all, for that is Gorka. I’m so grateful to him for putting up with everything I’ve been going through, emotionally and psychologically.
Our relationship has been more intense than other partnerships and I’m sure he’s felt that strain, but he is always there for me and has never, ever made me feel bad.
Without a shadow of a doubt, the meaning of a true partnership has been defined for me in this experience and I have made a friend for life. Although I’ll be really jealous of whoever he’s dancing with next year!
If I had to pick my three favourite dances of the series it would be the paso doble we did in week two – getting nines across the board at that early stage was incredible; then the jive, simply because we got our first ten; and then the chacha-cha because we were opening the show and I was so nervous, but something took over and we got a ten, so I was very proud of myself.
And while I’ve loved my time on the show, I have struggled with some of the public’s reaction. I’ve had my fair share of negative press since winning The X Factor nine years ago, but I’ve never experienced anything like this.
Twitter seems to have given people permission to be incredibly hurtful. They don’t seem to realise that I have feelings and get upset.
The saddest thing is that I started the show completely myself – my joy and my tears were 100 per cent genuine, however much people said they were fake – but I’m now so self-conscious, I try not to react at all in case people say, “Oh, look, here are the fake tears again.”
I feel I’ve got to lock my emotions away, where before I used to wear my heart on my sleeve.
I don’t know if I’ll make it to the final; that’s in the public’s hands. All I can do is carry on working hard, enjoy my time on that dancefloor and fight for my place.
I’ll perform every dance as if it’s my last, but pray it’s not, because Gorka and Strictly have stolen my heart.