‘Today is the Anniversary of the Last Time I WALKED:’ ‘Dance Moms’ Star Abby Lee Miller, 56, On Being Wheelchair Bound After Cancer

Published Apr 15, 2022

Sydney Schaefer

Looking Back On Abby Lee Miller’s Cancer Battle

  • Abby Lee Miller, star of the hit show Dance Moms and a cancer survivor, recently took the time to reflect on the last time she ever walked.
  • In 2018, Miller was diagnosed with Burkitt lymphoma, an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and has been wheelchair bound for the last several years due to complications suffered during surgery.
  • Following cancer surgery, many people may assume that avoiding exercise is the way to go. However, starting a physical therapy routine, like Miller, can actually offer a huge benefit when it comes to recovery.

Abby Lee Miller, star of the hit show Dance Moms and a cancer survivor, recently took the time to reflect on the last time she ever walked.

In 2018, Miller, now 56, was diagnosed with Burkitt lymphoma, an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and has been wheelchair bound for the last several years due to complications suffered during surgery. While her health crisis mainly took place in California, Miller lives in and is from Pittsburgh, Penn.

“Today, April 13 is the Anniversary of the last time I WALKED,” Miller posted to Instagram earlier this week alongside vulnerable photos of herself. “In horrific pain, I made it into a Doctor’s office and then across the street to a hospital for a sedated MRI.”

 

 

“On Friday the 13th, 2018 techs had to remove me from the imaging machine after 15 minutes because my arms & legs were flailing about uncontrollably! My health declined rapidly,” she continued. “I was admitted and then ignored. Over the next 24 hours my blood pressure dropped to 23 over 17, my Kidneys started to fail, and I became paralyzed from the Neck down.”

“It was too late to transfer me …” she added. “Emergency surgery had to be performed … I have never walked on my own again.”

Miller ended her post by telling her followers it’s only fitting that on the anniversary, she would “film the final footage on my very own Documentary talking about everything that happened to me … Coming to you Soon. Thank you all for your continued prayers and support🙏🏼”

Abby Lee Miller’s Cancer Battle

As previously mentioned, in April 2018, Abby Lee Miller was diagnosed with Burkitt lymphoma, an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Burkitt, which is rare (making up 1% to 2% of all lymphomas), typically starts in the abdomen, where it forms a large tumor. It can spread rapidly to the brain and spinal fluid. According to the Lymphoma Research Foundation, this fast-growing form of cancer may affect the jaw, central nervous system, bowel, kidneys, ovaries or other organs, and may spread to the central nervous system.

Miller, who was living in a halfway house in Long Beach, Calif., at the time, began experiencing pain. She had just been released from the Federal Correctional Institution in Victorville, Calif., where she served nearly a year-long sentence after pleading guilty to bankruptcy fraud in June 2016.

Abby Lee Miller attends Charmaine Blake’s Oscar Viewing Dinner To Benefit The Faber Ryan Youth Foundation at Amour Ballroom on April 25, 2021, in Los Angeles, Calif. Photo by Arnold Turner/Getty Images for Charmaine Blake PR

Experiencing pain she had never felt before, Miller went to a local urgent care clinic, tests were done, but she was sent home, undiagnosed. Because her jaw hurt, she went to a dentist who “did an ice cube check on every tooth and said there’s nothing wrong with your teeth,” she previously told SurvivorNet. But the pain persisted.

Miller wound up at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, where she was discharged after three days in “worse pain than I went in with.” Her medical team suggested she go to a pain management clinic.

Several days later, Abby Lee Miller returned to the hospital, barely able to move her arms, legs or jaw, and underwent emergency surgery. Her doctor “went to my spinal cord and meticulously pulled a slime, a tar-like substance, away from the spinal cord,” she said. It was complications she suffered during this surgery that have bound her to an electric wheelchair.

In May 2019, it was determined that Miller was cancer-free and began making good progress in her recovery. As of April 2021, she still has PET scans every three months to check for any recurrence.

She attends regular physical therapy sessions to build her strength back, but recently faced yet another obstacle as a result of a second spinal surgery she had in October 2020. The procedure caused two vertebrae fractures; she went through a third spinal surgery in November 2020 to rectify it.

Now, she said, “I can walk a couple steps with the walker, but I’m not where I was before September 30 (of 2020).”

Abby Lee Miller is seen on Dec. 4, 2019, in Los Angeles, Calif. Photo by SMXRF/Star Max/GC Images

Earlier this year, Miller sued Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton for $8.5 million in damages. She alleged that at the chain’s location in Santa Monica, Calif., a more than 300-pound door fell “directly” on top of her and trapped her in her wheelchair for about six to 12 minutes.

She also alleged that on other occasions unrelated to the falling door, hotel staff “ignored” her and did not help Miller’s wheelchair “accessibility needs when she contacted the front desk for assistance.” She was reportedly staying at the Hampton Inn & Suites for “an extended period of time,” from March and October 2020, according to Page Six.

How Physical Therapy Can Help Patients Recover After Cancer Surgery

Following cancer surgery, many people may assume that avoiding exercise is the way to go. However, starting a physical therapy routine, like Abby Lee Miller, can actually offer a huge benefit when it comes to recovery.

Dr. Angela Wicker-Ramos explains how a physical therapist can help patients recover after cancer treatment.

According to SurvivorNet experts, easing into exercise after surgery can improve your circulation; it improves your wound healing and the fluid movement through your body, helps soften any scar tissue that may be in the area (especially exercises that involve deep breathing or extending your chest and arms) and improves your endurance after surgery.

But it’s important that people recognize their limits and don’t strain their body too much, which is where a physical therapist comes in.

“Physical therapists can help with assessing any issues with range of motion, mobility, fatigue and balance, and then create a program that is very much a prescriptive program; so, a program that’s based on what you are at the time of your treatments,” Dr. Angela Wicker-Ramos, an oncology physical therapist for Cancer Rehab and Integrative Medicine in Austin, Texas, previously told SurvivorNet.

Contributing: Ann Oldenburg

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