Abby Lee Miller’s cancer diagnosis left her in a wheelchair and unable to walk. The Dance Moms reality star and owner of Abby Lee Miller Dance Company announced she is now cancer free.
The cancer diagnosis changed the course of her life for the better, she told Dr. Oz. Miller sat down for a tearful discussion with Dr. Oz in a poignant episode, “Dance Mom’s Abby Lee Miller: The Intervention Years in the Making.” It airs at 10 a.m. Monday, February 24. On the show, she discusses her cancer diagnosis, why she pleaded guilty in her federal case, and her broken relationships with her former dancers.
Miller’s life the last few years has been a series of triumphs and failures. She was sentenced to serve nine months in prison for bankruptcy fraud, serving time from July 2017 to March 2018. In March, she was transferred from federal prison to a halfway house in California. Miller, 53, was convicted of concealing bankruptcy assets and not reporting an international monetary transaction, and served federal time before she was moved to a halfway house.
When she was freed from prison, she was confined to a wheelchair. A rare form of cancer caused a mass that was choking her spinal cord, leaving her unable to walk. She returned to Dance Moms after a hiatus June 4. In May, she announced she was cancer free. She shared her journey through treatment on the one-year anniversary of her emergency surgery.
“The cancer is completely gone,” she told PEOPLE while promoting her show on Lifetime. “I’m more than grateful. I’m thankful.”
In April 2018 she underwent surgery for what doctors initially thought was a spinal infection. It turned out to be Burkitt lymphoma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer.
Miller is learning to walk again and plans to carry out her plans to become an executive producer.
“I pushed through because I feel like I have more to do,” she told PEOPLE. “I want to be an executive producer. I have three other shows and a cartoon that I’ve created. I want to do what I really do — I create. I can make something magical and wonderful out of nothing. I do it every week.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Abby Lee Miller Beat Cancer & Said Her Diagnosis Changed Her Life Forever
Abby Lee Miller announced she is cancer free after she was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Miller made the announcement while promoting her new season of Dance Moms following her return from a hiatus.
“The cancer is completely gone,” she told PEOPLE.
Miller told Dr. Oz her conviction caused most of her former dancers to “distance themselves” from her. She said she stays in touch with Jo Jo.
“I think everybody else forgot my name,” she said, adding that included Maddie.
“Well, because they needed to distance themselves from me. That was the word that was used, distance themselves, when I was indicted by the Federal Government. It’s funny you use that Dance Mom to Dance Con, because that was the prosecutor’s ending line in court,” she told Dr. Oz.
She wrote about her cancer journey on Instagram on the one-year anniversary of her emergency surgery. She thanked the doctors who treated her, but called out those who misdiagnosed her with a spinal infection.
“One year ago today ~ I underwent emergency surgery for an infection in my spine,” she wrote. “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”
2. The Dance Coach Is Confined To a Wheelchair as She Learns To Walk Again
Abby Lee Miller is in rehabilitation learning how to walk again. She is cancer free after 10 rounds of chemotherapy and surgery.
“I’m supposed to stand 3 times a day for 20 minutes. I can take a right step because I can put my weight on my left knee. Then when I take a left step my right leg just crumbles because I need a knee replacement,” Miller said.
Miller told Dr. Oz that her purpose in life is teaching dance, and opened up about her struggles being confined to a wheelchair and knowing she almost died.
“It’s horrible. It’s awful. I said to my friends many times, I have to save my tears to the pillow, many times, “why didn’t you let me die? Just, why did you save it, do it? Let me go.” I don’t have children. I don’t have a husband. My parents are deceased. I’m done. I came here to teach dance,” Miller told Dr. Oz.
Miller had knee surgery in July 2019, which she wrote on Instagram was “long overdue.”
She shared a photo of her rehabilitative treatment on Instagram, captioning it with a joke.
“Look at me, way up high,” she wrote. “I never thought I’d be cast in the role of Peter Pan, but I’m harnessed up and ready to fly!!”
3. She Was Diagnosed With Burkitt Lymphoma, A Rare, Aggressive Cancer
Doctors initially thought Abby Lee Miller had a spinal infection, and she had emergency surgery to treat it. Doctors then learned she had Burkitt lymphoma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer.
Burkitt Lymphoma is a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which starts in the immune cells. It is known as the most rapidly growing type of tumor in humans and is rapidly fatal unless it is treated quickly. The cancer causes immune deficiencies, according to Web MD.
The cancer is more common in Africa. It is more common in children who have malaria or Epstein-Barr, the virus which causes infectious mononucleosis. In the United States, Burkitt lymphoma is very rare. About 1,200 people are diagnosed every year, with 59 percent of the patients over age 40, Web MD said.
4. ‘I Pushed Through Because I Feel Like I Have More To Do,’ Abby Lee Miller Said
Abby Lee Miller underwent 10 rounds of chemotherapy, documenting much of her treatment on Instagram. She seemed to keep her sense of humor and feisty personality through the treatment process.
“If I Could FALL, I Would CRAWL To The MALL!” she wrote on Instagram June 25, 2018.
In July 2018, she posted a photo of her reclining in her wheelchair in Los Angeles, getting some sun and asking for a pool boy.
On July 20, 2018, she wrote on Instagram, “I just finished my 5th round of Chemo!!! I think I deserve a little treat today, so I’m putting on my make-up just in case!” captioning a photo taken as she applied mascara.
She told PEOPLE she has more to do in life, saying she wants to be an executive producer.
“I pushed through because I feel like I have more to do,” she said. “I want to be an executive producer. I have three other shows and a cartoon that I’ve created. I want to do what I really do — I create. I can make something magical and wonderful out of nothing. I do it every week.”
5. ‘I’m More Than Grateful,’ She Said
Abby Lee Miller said she is more than grateful, not just for her cancer-free diagnosis but for the strangers who help her every day.
“I’m more than grateful. I’m thankful,” Miller told PEOPLE. “I was always grateful but I think I must say ‘Thank you’ a hundred times a day because I have to rely on strangers; someone to open the door, someone to get the hanger off the rack at the department store, someone to pick up my phone if I drop it. How am I supposed to get it? I’m very grateful and thankful to strangers that have been so kind.”
She relied on the help of strangers July 7, when she fell at the Pittsburgh International Airport. She joked on Instagram she was thankful to the paramedics and “hot firemen” who helped her.
She wrote on Instagram she was thankful for those who listened and quickly rushed to treat the fast-acting cancer.
“So much gratitude and love for those who listened,those who looked deeper and those who leapt into action. So much more I wish I could say……about how quickly your life can change at the hands of others,” she wrote.