For people going through the difficult journey of recovering from cancer, exercise can be extremely important. For Abby Lee Miller, 53, star of reality TV show “Dance Moms” who has been confined to a wheelchair since a spinal surgery last year revealed she had a rare type of lymphoma, water aerobics is now becoming part of her recovery. It’s also helping her get comfortable with her body.
In a recent Instagram post, Abby Lee Miller uploaded a video of herself taking steps in a pool full of water, with the caption, “In my former life, I would never ever In a million years post a video of myself in a bathing suit in the pool – this felt so good and makes me so happy I had to share!” For a lot of people, the water’s properties make certain aerobic exercises possible that they wouldn’t be able to do on land.
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In my former life, I would never ever In a million years post a video of myself in a bathing suit in the pool – this felt so good and makes me so happy I had to share! . . . . . #dancemoms #season8 #aldcla #losangeles #ALDC #abbylee #abbyleedancecompany #abby #abbyleemiller #pool #walk #rehabilitation #physicaltherapy
Her supporters made it clear in the comments that love to see her progress, “Yasss!!! Did you take more steps than in our video? It was a record! Keep it up!”
And are there for her all the way, “Yay!! You go Abby!!! Im sooo happy for you! [heart]”
While others related their own, similar experiences, “I’m in a wheelchair and I do that every Wednesday it feels awesome.”
Information about staying active during cancer
A lot of people are tempted to throw in the towel when it comes to exercising after a cancer diagnosis. With all the other things going on in your life, it can be hard to find the motivation to stay active.
Research has found people with cancer who do moderate exercise have no negative side effects, and has demonstrated that those who exercised regularly had 40% to 50% less fatigue, the primary complaint during treatment, according to the National Comprehensive Cancer Network.
“Lack of exercise actually begets fatigue,” Dr. Marleen Meyers, a medical oncologist and Director of the Cancer Survivorship Program at NYU Perlmutter Cancer Center, told SurvivorNet in a previous conversation about how to deal with some of chemo’s most difficult side effects. “So the best treatment for fatigue is exercise. And what we have to do is get people over the hump, to get initial exercise going.” Dr. Meyers treats patients with breast cancer, but she said her advice applies to many other cancers as well.
For survivor Heather Maloney, the drive to keep moving came from the fact that she knew exercising regularly would put her in better shape to fight the disease. “With cancer you never know,” Heather says. “But I want to do everything I can to make my chances of a long life better.”
Survivors tell us about all sorts of activities they’ve taken up to stay active, and in fighting shape. Heather got into dragon boating – a rowing sport that a lot of cancer survivors are getting into across the U.S. and beyond. “When we come together, it’s about the boat and it’s about all the things around the boat,” Heather says. “It’s about competing, it’s about practicing, it’s about eating, it’s about getting in better shape … people aren’t talking about cancer, and if you are, you’re talking to the people that you know on the boat if something starts to pop up.”
Abby Lee Miller and exercise after cancer
Last year, Miller underwent an emergency surgery on her spine, which revealed she had a cancer called Burkitt lymphoma, a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The surgery also left her unable to walk, and she has been confined to a wheelchair since.
In a recent Instagram post, alongside a video of herself doing aerobic exercises and photos of her personal trainer stretching her feet, she wrote, “Another session w/ my trainer @coachcarlosfundamentals working on baby squats to strengthen the muscles around my knees. Firing my hip flexors & glutes quicker should help with walking! [prayer emoji]”
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Another session w/ my trainer @coachcarlosfundamentals working on baby squats to strengthen the muscles around my knees. Firing my hip flexors & glutes quicker should help with walking!???????? . . . . . #aldc #abby #abbyleemiller #abbyleedancecompany #aldcla #aldcalways #season8 #dancemoms
“That’s awesome! You’re doing great!”
“You look great!! Keep up the great work.”
“You are the strongest person”
“Good job Abby love u keep up the hard work I’m prayin for u to regain full mobility xoxo”
“OMG Abby i am so happy that your practicing your walking may God Bless You. Ilysm!![hearts]”
Abby Lee Miller’s first steps
Abby Lee Miller walked again for the first time earlier this month — and the little steps she took across the stage on “The Doctors” made for an incredibly emotional moment.
Adjusting to life in a wheelchair was a struggle for Miller, whose career–choreographing dance at her studio, Abby Lee Miller Dance Company–relies heavily on physical movement. But Miller learned to adapt her movements to continue doing what she loves — a process many cancer survivors with physical limitations must go through. Miller continued, for instance, teaching dance from her wheelchair (and even incorporated her chair in one of the dances).
On the recent episode of “The Doctors,” a day-time health talk show that often features celebrity guest, Miller slowly stood up, and, with the help of a walker, took several very small steps on stage. The audience applauded her, and in the caption to a clip of the moment she shared on Instagram, Miller wrote about how emotional she felt.
“Watching this made me cry!,” Miller wrote. “Thank you @thedoctorstv for letting me share my story with the world! Dr Lawrence Piro, Dr Hooman Mellomed, Dr Christopher Boudakian, Dr Simoni for your wisdom and kindness. My PT was so amazing, CRI is the best! I’m not nearly as strong as I was during this taping. I have a long way to go – if there’s 1 thing I know, it’s that I’m a fighter and there’s no such thing as ‘can’t’!”
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Watching this made me cry! Thank you @thedoctorstv for letting me share my story with the world! Dr Lawrence Piro, Dr Hooman Mellomed, Dr Christopher Boudakian, Dr Simoni for your wisdom and kindness. My PT was so amazing, CRI is the best! I’m not nearly as strong as I was during this taping. I have a long way to go – if there’s 1 thing I know, it’s that I’m a fighter and there’s no such thing as “can’t”! . . . . . #thebestisyettocome #aldcla #aldcstrong #aldc #abbylee #abbyleemiller #cancer #lymphoma ##theangelesclinic #thespinepro
On the same episode of “The Doctors,” Dr. Lawrence Piro, an oncologist and the President and CEO of The Angeles Clinic and Research Institute (an affiliate of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Canter) said, “The minute Abby was in remission, she took off, trying to get her life back.” Miller smiled and nodded her head at this, as Dr. Piro continued, “right after we finished (treatment) she took off to Pittsburgh to film a new season of ‘Dance Moms.’ And she was running at full-tilt doing it all.'”
Dr. Piro shared that, although Miller is in remission for her cancer, 10-20 percent of people with Burkitt lymphoma experience a recurrence (meaning their cancer comes back), indicating that Miller will need to be closely monitored.
Abby Lee’s Cancer Journey Has Been Challenging Both Physically and Emotionally
After the back surgery that left her in a wheelchair last year, Miller shared that the doctors who operated on her spine had found that there was a cancerous tumor wrapped around her spinal cord, which Miller described as “choking” her spine. The cancer diagnosis was hard on Miller, but in an interview with “Good Morning America” back in May, she shared that it was a blessing that she had the surgery—and found the cancer—when she did.
“I would have been dead,” Miller said.” I was paralyzed from the neck down—no movement. Because this cancer—this lymphoma—was choking my spinal cord.”
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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. I endured ten rounds of chemo therapy (each lasting 6 days with 4/ 24hr bags pumping poison into my body ending with a spinal tap in 3 spots, plus another shot of Chemo into my tailbone area up the spinal cord around my brain cavity) Ten times! Another spine surgery was needed & I have one more still to go. I struggled thru months of physical therapy to learn to sit up again, to crawl and maybe with a miracle someday I’ll walk. Why didn’t the ER Doctors on duty do their jobs? I came in twice with the same symptoms? Why didn’t somebody listen to me, the patient? I finally found the right team that’s why I lived to tell my story, I have a lot to say! Thank you to all wonderful top notch professionals who continue to help me heal. For those who missed it, misdiagnosed me, and the so called Federal “Doctor” who took me off medication cold turkey and the other ER “Doctor Hollywood” who told me to go home and take it easy for 10 days – STOP practicing! Please ????????
Cancer treatment varies across different lymphoma types, and in Miller’s case was chemotherapy and surgery. After her back surgery, Miller underwent six rounds of chemotherapy.
In June, the “Dance Moms” star appeared in her mechanical wheelchair on an interview with E! News’ “Daily Pop,” during which she opened up about the challenges of her cancer journey and the emotional effects that the past year have had on her. One of the challenging questions posed to Miller during the interview was whether she now had to ask for help—and whether she had trouble doing so.
“I still do everything!” Miller said defensively. But she also shared that she had learned to rely on other people—including strangers—to grab things for her, hold doors, and navigate areas that are not accessible to people in wheelchairs.
“These are perfect strangers…and yet, I rely on them all the time,” Miller said. “It renews your faith in humankind and that people are genuinely nice and helpful.”
Going through a cancer diagnosis and treatment is difficult on its own—but we know from survivors that even after beating cancer, hurdles often remain, including dealing with lingering physical limitations, returning to work, and navigating dicey relationships with people who might not understand the nuances of a cancer journey. While Miller has shared that she is cancer-free, her journey isn’t over.