A year after being diagnosed with Burkitt lymphoma, Abby Lee Miller is feeling optimistic about her future

By Christina Dugan
May 22, 2019 10:51 AM
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Abby Lee Miller is cancer free and could not feel more blessed.

“The cancer is completely gone,” the Dance Moms star, 53, told PEOPLE while promoting the upcoming season of the hit Lifetime show. “I’m more than grateful. I’m thankful. 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.”

In April 2018, after undergoing the emergency surgery for what was initially thought to be a spinal infection, the reality star was diagnosed with was diagnosed with Burkitt lymphoma, a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In the year since, she has undergone ten rounds of chemotherapy and months of rehabilitation in hopes of walking again.

“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.”

Abby Lee Miller
| Credit: Rich Fury/Getty

“I have goals,” Miller continued. “I have dreams and I want to see them come to fruition. I want to retire and want to be able to live out my days financially secure. That’s what everyone wants.”

Last month, Miller, 53, reflected on her health on the one-year anniversary of her emergency surgery. Alongside a photo of her spinal surgery scar, Miller opened up about her journey and bashed some of the doctors that initially treated her.

“One year ago today ~ I underwent emergency surgery for an infection in my spine,” the caption read. “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,” she continued. “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 🙏🏻”

Despite the constant uphill battle, Miller said she’s “hopeful” she will walk again.

“If I can move, I can stand,” she told PEOPLE, slowly moving her feet while in her wheelchair. “I’m supposed to stand three times a day for twenty 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.”

In February’s trailer for the upcoming season of Dance Moms, Miller opened up about her battle with cancer.

Abby Lee Miller
| Credit: Lifetime

“In an instant, your life changes completely,” Miller said in the clip, followed by footage of her fighting back tears in a hospital bed. “I was ready to go back to work and start my life over and now I can’t even walk.”

“I need to get back to teaching and I need to get back to screaming at children,” she added. “I need to get back to my roots. I’m going to take these kids right back to the turf.”

Dance Moms premieres June 4 at 9 p.m. ET on Lifetime.