“Dance Moms” star Abby Lee Miller is speaking with remarkable openness about her loneliness and need to summon her core inner strength during her recent cancer journey, and she’s now declaring herself cancer free.
Abby’s detailed recounting, made in an important interview with Us Magazine, offers special insight into the struggles faced by single, childless women who must confront cancer. The Lifetime TV star, who has never married and has no children, said that at the depths of her despair, she felt it didn’t matter if she lost her battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.READ MORE
Abby was diagnosed with Burkitt lymphoma, a type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma cancer, when she had spinal surgery shortly after her release from prison for fraud. Abby had been charged with creating a secret bank account to hide her income from the tax man, with falsely declaring bankruptcy to hide her assets, and with customs fraud for hiding the proceeds of a dance class she taught in Australia. She eventually pled guilty to reduced charges and was sentenced to just over a year in prison.
Her cancer struggles started shortly after her release, and Abby managed to avoid some time she would otherwise have spent in a halfway house because she was hospitalized.
“It was physically tough and emotionally draining,” Abby said of her course of care. “Dying is the easy way out of a situation like mine. Like in my situation, to lay in that hospital in intensive care and those ten minutes go by and my heart just stops, that was easy. Going through the surgery, recovering, going to therapy, learning how to pick up a toothbrush and brush your teeth again, learning how to sit up in the bed without falling over, trying to get my right foot to move again, to get my toes to wiggle, that was hard.”
Abby’s cancer journey has had many bumps. In April, she posted a gruesome photo of her exposed back to social media, revealing a long scar. In the posting, Abby denounced her medical team.
“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,” Miller wrote in the caption that accompanied the photo of her bare back covered in stitches (the reality TV star looks almost unrecognizable). “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,” she lamented.
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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 ????????
Miller went on to detail more grueling aspects of her treatment in the caption — only to conclude that she was ignored many times by doctors who she claims made the wrong decisions regarding her diagnosis. She also stated that she wouldn’t be alive if she hadn’t been able to find the “right team” to tackle her diagnosis.
But year after she began cancer treatment, after chemotherapy and six spinal taps, Miller told Us, “the cancer’s gone.”
And now that she’s looking back? “It was hard, hard, hard work. And I’ve worked hard all my life, I don’t need to keep working.”
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is actually a collection of different lymphoma diseases, according to Dr. Catherine Diefenbach, Director of Translational Hematology and Clinical Lymphoma at NYU Langone Health and the Perlmutter Cancer Center, who was not commenting specifically on Abby’s case. “Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is not one disease, it’s many diseases,” says Dr. Diefenbach. “And there are over 68 kinds of lymphoma. For this reason, it’s very important that if you have a diagnosis of lymphoma, you’re treated by a lymphoma specialist. And, we hope for all of our lymphoma patients that the first therapy you receive, will be your last therapy. That is, that we can treat you and cure you with first-line therapy.”
There are two main categories of lymphomas, and the category determines whether the cancer is curable or manageable, and whether treatment is necessary. “To understand and answer the question of what to do when your lymphoma comes back, you need to understand that in general, non-Hodgkin lymphomas are divided into aggressive or indolent lymphomas,” says Dr. Diefenbach. “And the approach to these lymphomas is very different. Aggressive lymphomas are treatable and potentially curable. Indolent lymphomas are managed and don’t always require treatment, however they are not curable by conventional means of describing curability.”
A trained choreographer, Abby ran a successful dance studio in the Pittsburgh area before being cast on Lifetime’s “Dance Moms”, which is controversial for its portrayals of aggressive coaches and scheming mothers. In 2012, Abby was expelled from the Dance Masters of Pennsylvania Chapter #10, of which she’d been a member since 1986. The group said “Dance Moms” was “a total misrepresentation of our dance educators and their students and is detrimental to the dance profession.”
Abby’s grueling training schedule for Season 8 of “Dance Moms” has prompted her many fans to fear she’s pushing herself too hard, considering her recent health challenges. A source close to Abby told RadarOnline that the dance coach was working 12 hour days. “She’s stretching herself too thin,” the source said. “Her doctors are telling her to stop, but she needs the show and the money for a comeback.”
The much-anticipated eighth season of “Dance Moms” premiers June 4th on Lifetime.