Abby Lee Miller remains hospitalized as she recovers from an emergency surgery to treat a potential cancer that left her paralyzed from the neck down

By Mariah Haas and Aurelie Corinthios
April 20, 2018 11:00 AM
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Abby Lee Miller‘s former Dance Moms student JoJo Siwa has her back.

Speaking to PEOPLE at WE Day California on Thursday, JoJo, 14, revealed she recently paid a visit to her former dance coach, who remains hospitalized as she recovers from an emergency surgery to treat a potential cancer that left her paralyzed from the neck down.

“I actually went to visit her yesterday — she was not good by any means,” JoJo said. “I know what she has is awful, but she’s in good spirits so that’s really good. It’s hard, but she is definitely, definitely, definitely the strongest, toughest person that I know, and so I think she’ll be good.”

JoJo added that it was “heartbreaking” to see Miller, 51, in that condition.

“Sad. Really, really sad,” she said. “It’s sad to see someone who’s just kind of down, you know? We’ll go see her tomorrow or sometime next week, so we’re definitely going to see her all of the time.”

RELATED VIDEO: JoJo Siwa Says Former Dance Moms Coach Abby Lee Miller ‘Taught Me How to Sink or Swim’

Miller was hospitalized for what was believed to be a thyroid condition on April 10, two weeks after she was released from prison and transferred to a halfway house. (The reality star had been serving her 366-day sentence for bankruptcy fraud at the Victorville Federal Correctional Institution in California since July.)

Dr. Hooman M. Melamed, an orthopedic spine surgeon who treated the star, told PEOPLE Miller went into surgery for a multi-level laminectomy after she experienced “excruciating neck pain” and weakness in her arm. The almost five-hour surgery required an 18-inch incision on her back as Melamed had to remove the back part of several vertebrae to back to relieve pressure on her spinal cord.

Credit: Christopher Polk/Getty; David Livingston/Getty

“Over the next two days, her condition started deteriorating,” Melamed said. “Not just her pain, but her weakness started getting worse. In the span of 24 hours, which was something that I have not seen, her condition rapidly deteriorated. She was completely paralyzed from the neck down.”

On Wednesday, Melamed preliminarily diagnosed Miller with Burkitt lymphoma — a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer that develops in the lymphatic system.

On Thursday, her doctor told PEOPLE via Miller’s rep that while the reality star is “not out of the woods yet,” she has a lot more movement in her arms legs and toes, which is a “very good sign.”

While he’s optimistic Miller will recover, Melamed said Miller will require another spinal surgery. Pathology results are pending.