Shannon Miller was one of the gutsiest gymnasts American has seen, winning a combined total of 16 Olympic medals and World Championships. So it’s no surprise that she approached her recent battle with a rare form of ovarian cancer like the ultra-strong athlete she is. She took control of what she knew had control over, and decided to fight every day.
“Treatment for me was all about relying on all of those lessons I had learned growing up through the sport of gymnastics, Olympic competition,” she tells Newsmax Health. It was about “just getting back to the basics, and taking it one step at a time, putting one foot in front of the other each and every day, so that I’d just keep going with the treatment.”
Miller’s diagnosis of a malignant germ cell tumor on her ovary in early 2011 came as a real surprise just 15 months after giving birth to her son, Rocco, now 3. She quickly had surgery to remove it and thought she was on her way to recovery when doctors decided a couple of weeks later that she should have chemotherapy.
“I think chemo was for me when it became real — that I really had cancer,” she recalls. “And for me, that was kind of the toughest thing to wrap my mind around.”
For Miller, who describes herself as a type-A personality, one of the hardest parts about having cancer was the sense of losing control of her life. The surgery robbed her of 10 percent of her body weight, and during her early weeks with chemotherapy, Miller became dehydrated, quickly lost her hair, and could barely pull herself out of bed because she felt so weak and sick.
That’s when she decided to focus on what she could control: diet, exercise, and rest. Doctors recommended she eat whatever she wanted to help regain weight and strength, and she slowly began to move: 10 minutes of yoga one day, a short walk on another. The movement gave her new life, reawakening the powerful athlete inside her.
“Just moving my body empowered me, and it reminded that hey, I could be very proactive in my recovery,” says Miller, who has now been cancer-free for more than a year.
Blogging about her cancer fight on her website shannonmillerlifestyle.com also has proven to be empowering for her and, apparently, inspirational for others. One woman who heard about Miller’s experience told her that she had admired her as a gymnast years ago, and now would follow her advice to see a doctor — for the first time in five years.
“To me, that just was everything,” Miller says of the woman’s reaction.
Having cancer also has changed Miller’s life in other remarkable ways, making her much less concerned about pleasing others, she says.
“It has certainly made me a stronger person. I’ve always been kind of a people pleaser — just always say yes — and I realize it’s OK to say no sometimes. My priorities — I don’t know that they changed but they are more solidified. I know what is important in my life and what I can kind of let go of.”Editor’s Note: The One Thing You Should Do For Your Prostate Every Morning. Click here.