Feb 27, 2014
01:32 PM
Health & Wellness

U.S. Olympic Gold Medal Gymnast Shannon Miller, a Cancer Survivor, Speaking in Connecticut

U.S. Olympic Gold Medal Gymnast Shannon Miller, a Cancer Survivor, Speaking in Connecticut

Renee Parenteau

U.S. Olympic gold medalist Shannon Miller.

Battling cancer requires a person to fight like a champion. That’s a lesson U.S. Olympic gymnast Shannon Miller learned firsthand after she was diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer at just 33 years old. By the time this happened, she had already won seven Olympic medals (at the 1996 games in Atlanta she led the “Magnificent Seven” to the U.S. women’s first team gold, and she became the first American to win a gold medal on the balance beam). Then in January 2011, the most decorated gymnast in American history began a fight for her life.

“My diagnosis was quite a shock—you just never think it will happen to you,” says Miller, who will be the featured speaker March 20 in a CT Challenge Speaker series event at Roger Ludlowe Middle School inFairfield “Mine was a rare type of ovarian cancer that tends to target women in their teens and early 20s. The cancer was diagnosed early, during a routine exam. My husband and I were ready for baby number two, and I went in to make sure everything was okay, but the doctor found a cyst, which turned out to be a malignant germ cell tumor.”

After surgery to remove the tumor, Miller endured a nine-week course of chemotherapy. “At first, after treatment, I thought the sun would shine and the birds would sing, but it doesn’t work that way,” she says. “I was still sick as could be, still tired, and still bald, so the biggest hurdle was to realize these things weren’t going to change right away and that it was going to take baby steps.”

Like a champ, she put her game plan into action, and a year later she became pregnant with her daughter. She’s currently cancer-free and keeps busy with her family and her company, Shannon Miller Lifestyle. “We encourage women to make their health a priority, and not feel guilty about it,” she says. This month she’ll discuss her experience in the CT Challenge Speaker Series. She says, “It takes the support of not only nurses, doctors and family but also from people who have lived it—those who can say, ‘hey, it’s going to be okay, there’s life after this.’”

For more information on Miller's CT Challenge Speaker series event, call 203-292-8722 or see the website at ctchallenge.org

--Cathy P. Ross

U.S. Olympic Gold Medal Gymnast Shannon Miller, a Cancer Survivor, Speaking in Connecticut

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