Published Dec 31, 2021
Dance Moms’ Abby Lee Miller, 56, is already setting herself up for success for the new year by making a personal vow to walk again. Miller has been bound to an electronic wheelchair since experiencing complications from spinal surgery, but this determined cancer survivor isn’t giving up.
“I can walk a couple steps with the walker, but I’m not where I was before September 30,” Miller previously told SurvivorNet.
Miller recently shared a video of one of her physical therapy appointments, in which she was stepping up and down on a block in order to build muscles in her legs. Though Miller still needs the assistance of her wheelchair to get around, she is determined to walk on her own two feet again. To do this, she made a personal vow — she will be able to walk in 2022.
“Got my post-holiday bevel!!!,” Miller wrote on Instagram. “Stepping up into the end of 2021…what are your goals for the new year? Mine will be walking walking WALKING!!!”
Miller was diagnosed with Burkitt lymphoma in April 2018, and after suffering complications from her first spinal surgery, she’s used an electric wheelchair. She attends regular physical therapy sessions to build her strength back up, but recently faced yet another obstacle as a result of a second spinal surgery she had in October. The procedure caused the fracture of two vertebrae, and went through a third spinal surgery November 2020 to rectify it.
Burkitt lymphoma is a fairly rare and aggressive type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. According to the National Cancer Institute the disease can affect the jaw, central nervous system, bowel, kidneys, ovaries, or other organs.
“I didn’t have any health issues,” Miller told SurvivorNet. “I never spent a night in the hospital before this happened. All the vertebrae are so bad. I have osteoporosis, extremely poor bone quality. I can walk a couple steps with the walker, but I’m not where I was before September 30.”
Miller’s determined mentality has helped her achieve incredible milestones during her physical therapy appointments. Even when COVID-19 forced her to stop going to her rehab center in person, she still found inventive ways to work out whether it was boxing with water bottles or using an at-home personal trainer. Thanks to her progress, Miller has been able to stay upbeat and keep fighting to walk again on her own.
Miller’s attitude in believing in herself and setting goals is often a beneficial approach in pushing through tough times — especially during cancer treatment. Experts say that a determined mindset as well as goal-setting can help guide patients to more successful treatment outcomes, and also help them recover more easily.
“We call it ‘eye of the tiger,’” Dr. Sid Ganguly, Deputy Director of Hematologic Malignancies and Cellular Therapeutics at the University of Kansas Medical Center, previously told SurvivorNet. “You have to have the eye of the tiger to go through this grueling process that is necessary these days to get rid of these virulent and aggressive cancers.”
This ‘eye of the tiger’ mentality not only refers to someone’s attitude; it also includes diet and exercise. By incorporating all three of these factors, it can help patients keep up their health and reach their goals. “A good positive mind increases our interleukins, our immune system,” Dr. Ganguly says.
So, whether it’s getting through cancer treatment, recovering after treatment, or in Miller’s case, trying to walk, it’s important to focus on mindset and setting goals in order to inspire you to work hard and push through.