'When you're in a wheelchair, you're invisible': 'Dance Moms' star Abby Lee Miller opens up about life after cancer

Abby Lee Miller (Photo by Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)
Abby Lee Miller (Photo by Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)

Abby Lee Miller is opening up about life after cancer.

In a new article for Women’s Health, the “Dance Moms” star revealed that she’s still struggling to adjust to her new reality after being declared cancer-free.

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In 2018, Miller underwent emergency surgery after doctors discovered a mass around her spinal cord. She was diagnosed with Burkitt lymphoma, a fast-growing form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that can affect the jaw, central nervous system, kidneys, bowel or ovaries.

 (Photo by Gabriel Olsen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gabriel Olsen/Getty Images)

The now 52-year-old says that during her 10 rounds of chemotherapy, she didn’t receive physical therapy following spinal surgery. Due to atrophied muscles as well as spinal cord injury, she must rely on an electric wheelchair to help with the limited mobility she has left.

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“Right now, I have to use a catheter because it takes way too long to move from my chair to a regular toilet,” Miller said. “People always think the worst part of being in a wheelchair is not being able to walk or ride a bike, but for me, it’s just the process of using the bathroom.”

Aside from getting used to not being able to perform the simplest tasks, Miller has become frustrated with how unaccommodating the rest of the world is for people living with a disability.

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“When you’re in a wheelchair, you’re invisible to people,” she said. “When I’m driving down the sidewalk, people walk right into me and trip over my chair. You’re not at eye-level, so people don’t notice you. Luckily, I can adjust my chair to make myself much taller, and I do that before meetings or teaching a class. I like to come into the room in a regal position. That’s my style.”

From poorly designed hotels and public bathrooms, Miller has taken to social media to call-out airlines and businesses who declare themselves “handicap-friendly” but have delivered poor service.

“The lift chairs in hotel or public pools and hot tubs are almost always dead, and the chairs in showers are always too low, which makes it nearly impossible to get back into my chair when I’m wet,” she told the magazine. “It’s incredibly frustrating.”

Miller in 2017. Image via Getty Images.
Miller in 2017. Image via Getty Images.

Now, Miller is focused on the future and has her sights set on walking again; something both she and her doctors believe is possible.

“I know I’ll probably never walk around Disney World or the airport, but I’m hopeful I can walk for short distances and get some normalcy back in the future,” she admits. “I want to be able to use the ladies room like everyone else.”

After a brief hiatus from her hit reality show, Miller has returned to the world of “Dance Moms” and said that despite her illness and health struggles, she was determined to continue teaching dance.

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“The good news is that being in a wheelchair hasn’t stopped me from instructing. I raised and trained my dancers to know their terminology, so they don’t need me to show them every move and pose. That’s why I wanted to do the current season of Dance Moms, to prove that I can still teach,” she explained. “I’m not giving up—and I’m not going anywhere.”

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