Abby Lee Miller's Plan to Start Walking
- Dance Moms star Abby Lee Miller broke her leg in two places earlier this year, further delaying her quest to start walking after spinal surgery due to cancer.
- Miller was diagnosed with Burkitt lymphoma in 2018. Burkitt lymphoma is a rare and aggressive form of cancer, most often seen in boys ages 5 to 10.
- Miller is currently back in physical therapy after having to take a break. She’s now “standing in place” or “marching” as compared to “walking 150 steps with the walker,” she says. Her goal is to be walking 150 steps again by the holidays.
The Dance Moms star, 56, had been making progress all year after undergoing surgery to reinforce her spinal cord, which had been weakened by a tumor that wrapped itself around the base.Read More
Miller posted a video of herself taking her first steps on Tik Tok in March.
In the video, she is with her walker and a physical therapist stepping up and down from a sidewalk curb in a local parking lot.
She tells HollywoodLife, however, that shortly after posting that video, things took a turn.
Miller was in Florida when she discovered she had broken her leg in two places and would not be able to put any pressure on it for at least three months.
The good news is that she is once again rehabbing after that incident but is “standing in place” or “marching” as compared to “walking 150 steps with the walker” like she was earlier this year.
Her goal is to be walking 150 steps again by the holidays.
“I need to get back to that 150 steps and standing without my hands and standing with brushing my teeth. I’m starting that now — all that stuff,” said Miller.
Prior to breaking her leg, Miller had undergone a series of surgeries on her spine.
Those surgeries were part of her cancer journey, which started while incarcerated in federal prison after being convicted of bankruptcy fraud.
Miller says that she first started feeling symptoms, including intense neck pain and soreness in her jaw, while behind bars.
She had to wait, however, until her release to be examined by a doctor after she claims the facility refused her requests.
The first visits Miller made to medical facility did not go as the reality star had hoped, and she left without a diagnosis.
“Why didn’t the ER doctors on duty do their jobs?” Miller later asked in a social media post.
“I came in twice with the same symptoms? Why didn’t somebody listen to me, the patient?”
She also credited the doctor she eventually did find and noted: “[T]hat’s why I lived to tell my story.”
Miller recalled the day of her diagnosis in a 2019 Instagram post. It also marked the day she lost the ability to walk without assistance.
“One year ago today, I underwent emergency surgery for an infection in my spine. This mass/tumor choking my spinal cord turned out to be Burkitt lymphoma,” wrote Miller.
“I endured ten rounds of chemotherapy (each lasting six days with four 24-hr bags pumping poison into my body ending with a spinal tap in three spots, plus another shot of chemo into my tailbone area up the spinal cord around my brain cavity) Ten times!”
Burkitt lymphoma is a rare disease diagnosed in young boys most of the time. In May 2019, doctors informed the reality star that there was no evidence of cancer.
Miller told SurvivorNet in April that doctors were actually able to see the cancer once surgery began, reveled that the surgeon “pulled a slime, a tar-like substance, away from the spinal cord.”
She still could not walk though, even after undergoing additional surgeries.
First, a vertebrae fell out of place. Then, with her she spinal cord still greatly weakened, she underwent a major surgery.
“All the vertebrae are so bad. I have osteoporosis, extremely poor bone quality,” explained Miller.
In September of last year, doctors adjusted that vertebrae. And In November, they “put enough rods and pins in me for 20 people” said Miller.
That final surgery did the trick and Miller slowly has been in the process of standing and later walking with assistance. She had gotten to the point where she could even take a few steps when she learned that her log had been broken in two places.
And while she is struggling with the use of her legs and feet she is still making a living instructing young boys and girls the best way to use their legs and feet.
The Abby Lee Dance Company currently has studios in Miller’s hometown of Pittsburgh and Los Angeles. She hopes to add Orlando to that list soon, and is also teaching classes around the world on Zoom.
Miller is also still keeping a busy travel schedule despite being confined to a wheelchair. And she is committed to walking again, no matter how difficult it proves to be to what setbacks she encounters along the way.
As she told SurvivorNet earlier this year, she is ready to take on any challenge.
“I’ve been given a second chance. I survived prison. I survived a very rare cancer. I survived 10 rounds of invasive chemotherapy. I survived all the needles and all the tests, emergency spine surgery, a second spine surgery. All of these things — not to mention all of the heartbreaks, and all of the sadness,” said Miller.
“I survived it all.”
Physical Therapy For Cancer Patients
Miller spends 45 minutes with a physical therapist twice a week in her bid to walk again.
Experts tell SurvivorNet that a physical therapy program can offer a tremendous benefit to all cancer patients.
Dr. Angela Wicker-Ramos, a oncology physical therapist for Cancer Rehab and Integrative Medicine in Austin, Texas, provided examples in a previous interview with SurvivorNet.
Physical therapy can help with some of the tough side effects of chemotherapy, including fatigue, weakness, balance issues, and loss of circulation and feeling in the toes or fingers.
“Exercise improves your circulation, which improves wound-healing,” noted Dr. Wicker-Ramos.
Physical therapy programs do need to be uniquely designed for the individual patients, explained Dr. Wicker-Ramos.
“[Physical therapists] can work with you before chemotherapy to get your baseline and get you on a program to help reduce the symptoms that may happen from chemotherapy, and they can work with you along the entire spectrum of chemotherapy treatment in order to reduce those side effects,” said Dr. Ramos.
The close relationship also allows for a dialogue so that shifts can be made accordingly throughout the process.
During radiation treatment seeing a physical therapist can help with scar tissue said Dr. Ramos, and how it is affecting posture, bretahing or digestion.
Hormone therapy is on the list as well, said Dr. Ramos.
“Any treatments that are ridding your body of hormones have side effects as well, including fatigue, weight gain, and some sexual dysfunction issues such as pelvic pain and incontinence,” pointed out Dr. Wicker-Ramos.
Taking Cancer On With An Eye of the Tiger Mentality
Dr. Sid Ganguly, deputy director of hematologic malignancies and cellular therapeutics at the University of Kansas Medical Center, previously told SurvivorNet that diet, exercise, and a positive attitude can go a long way in cancer care.
Those three things will never cure cancer or replace medicine, but they do provide a boost that can help any cancer warrior in their battle.
“We call it ‘eye of the tiger,'” said Dr. Ganguly. “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.”
Positivity, Diet, and Exercise are Key
One of the most important aspects of this “eye of the tiger” is a positive attitude, according to Dr. Ganguly.
“A good, positive mind increases our interleukins, our immune system,” explained Dr. Ganguly.
He then pointed to a study that found depression can result in a decreased immune system and increased chance of infection.
This is why he said it is so important to be healthy by maintaining a balanced diet, exercising every day, and keeping things positive.
“I’m not saying that lifestyle changes and exercise will stave off the treatment,” stressed Dr. Ganguly. “The treatment has to continue simultaneously.”
Those who have eaten well, worked out, and kept things positive will just “have a better chance of coming out of the treatment with less complications and probably will be able to tolerate it better.”
Wellness begets wellness.