Shannon Miller

Shannon Miller was 33 when she learned that she had ovarian cancer. During a routine exam, her doctor found an ovarian germ cell tumor. Fortunately, it was found at an early stage and hadn’t spread to any other parts of the body. 

Miller was facing both surgery and an aggressive nine-week chemotherapy regimen. How did she prepare for this battle? Well, she looked back at her past. See, Miller was an Olympic gymnast and a seven-time medalist — in fact, Miller is the most decorated US female gymnast in Olympic history. So when it came time for Miller to take on cancer, she used lessons she learned from a lifetime of gymnastic training.

“A huge part of my success as an athlete was that I had the mental game. To get through the toughest moments of treatment I relied on goal setting and keeping that positive mentality,” said Miller.

And that’s what she did. “Treatment was tough, both physically and emotionally. Miller’s doctor called it the “hit ‘em hard, ‘em fast” approach. She would have chemotherapy 5 days a week for 9 weeks, starting about a month after her surgery. She told herself, “I can do anything for 9 weeks.”

After her treatments, Miller was cancer free and remains so to this day. Today, Miller travels the country telling her cancer story and encouraging women to take care of themselves, “I use whatever voice I have from my Olympic career to encourage women to keep medical appointments, get more sleep, eat right, get and stay fit, and recognize the signs and symptoms of cancer,” she says.

“The biggest lesson I learned was how much I needed to appreciate every day,” said Miller. “No matter where you are in your journey, you can take that day and do your best with it. I used to fly through life. I didn’t take time to savor it. I was always go, go, go. Now I understand the importance of really taking time to appreciate every moment.”