We’re all doing our best to stay well right now with the coronavirus (COVID-19) still sweeping the nation. It might seem difficult to be positive and create healthy habits while in quarantine, but we spoke to someone who’s no stranger to thriving in the face of adversity — Olympian, mother-of-three, and breast cancer survivor, Chaunté Lowe.
The Importance of Early Detection
Lowe isn’t any ordinary American athlete. The four-time Olympian high-jumper was diagnosed with triple-negative invasive ductal carcinoma, an aggressive form of breast cancer, in June of 2019 at the age of 35. Lowe underwent a double mastectomy and chemotherapy treatments that left her body feeling weak, while the diagnosis itself left her spirit fragile. But despite all this, she continued to train for the 2020 Olympics, and has since embarked on a journey of self-healing and advocating for the early detection of breast cancer.
“I had a perception that a lot of people have,” Lowe said, explaining that she didn’t expect that something like this could happen to her. “I’m healthy, I’m fit, I’m doing all the ‘right’ things. Getting this breast cancer diagnosis came out of left field, and I realized how vulnerable I was. I’m at the point now where taking care of my health and wellness is extremely important to me.”
Lowe was very fortunate that her cancer was caught early — but it wasn’t all luck. Being an athlete, she tends to stay connected to her body. Despite being under 40, the recommended age to start getting mammograms, she’d give herself a breast exam every week or so. And when she found a tiny lump the size of half a grain of rice, she knew it was time to see a doctor.
If Lowe had left that lump go undetected, she says that there’s a chance she would never even make it to her 40th birthday. The mom-of-three was even refused a mammogram when she first attempted to get one, but sought a second opinion with another doctor. Luckily, that doctor was in the same frame of mind that no lump should go unexamined, and that’s when they found that it had grown much larger, in just a matter of a couple of weeks.
Lowe was struck by the bad news, but soon found solace in the stories of other survivors. At that point, she decided to look within herself to find the strength to keep training and eventually compete in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
“I decided that I was going to take it one day at a time,” Lowe said. “I just aimed to succeed for the day, and I woke up each day with that mindset. I feel that it’s better to break up bigger goals into smaller, achievable ones.”
She was at the point where she was walking with a walker and her body wanted to sleep for 34 hours at a time after each chemotherapy treatment. “If I kept thinking about my larger goal of competing at the Olympics, it would have seemed impossible to me,” she said. “I would have given up. But the success was, ‘today I’m going to walk around the block. And if I do that, I’ve conquered the day.’”
The Path to Overall Health
Lowe’s battle with cancer and experience with chemotherapy also led her in the direction to better skin wellness. “I had my first chemo treatment on my daughter’s 12th birthday, which is July 30, right in the middle of summer,” she explains. “We went to the amusement park, I was wearing a bikini and my skin burned for the first time.” She never typically worry about her skin health, but the chemo made her skin extremely sensitive and she was burning after 15 minutes.
“So now, I’ve learned how my skin wellness routine really contributes to my overall health,” says Lowe. “The skin is the largest organ on the body, and sometimes we forget that it needs special attention.” Since coming to this realization, she’s teamed up with Olay and Walgreens to raise awareness about skin wellness and hopefully inspire other women to pay attention to their bodies.
“I partner with Olay and Walgreens because they’re committed to helping women make informed decisions about their skin and about their wellness,” she says. “For me, after going through chemotherapy and a double mastectomy, and now trying to compete on the world stage as an Olympian, I feel like I can use my platform to inspire women to continue to pursue their goals in the face of any adversity that might come their way.” How inspiring!
As for which are Lowe’s favorite products, she has a few that are a part of her daily routine. “I’m using Olay Deep Hydrating Serum ($28.98, Amazon) and the Regenerist Whip Moisturizer with SPF 25 ($22.98, Amazon),” she says. “The serum helps strengthen my skin barrier, and the moisturizer is lightweight and doesn’t irritate my skin. It provides me with just the level of protection that I need.”
Advice for Those Fighting Cancer
Lowe also shared with us some words of wisdom for anyone battling breast cancer. “Find a community,” she advises. “I was able to find an amazing community on Instagram of women who have already been through what I’ve been through, and it’s been so supportive to me.”
Another great tip she shared was to open to yourself to receiving help. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” she says. “As strong women, we tend to have our way of doing things, and we don’t always necessarily allow others to help us.”
Her final tip has to do with taking ownership of your experience. “Be your own health advocate,” she says. “Do your own research on what could help you get through your process, and keep your doctors informed about what direction you want your treatment plan to go. You have choices, so pick doctors and plans that work for you.”
Staying Positive During Isolation
While Lowe has mixed feelings about the games being postponed this year, she’s doing her best to keep herself — and her kids — in great shape during the quarantine. Every morning, the now 36-year-old mother of three gets up at 4:30 to do weight training in her garage before the kids get up. “We’re moms, we’re wives, and now we’re also teachers, so it helps to get my workout done early.”
Lowe has also been doing mini training sessions for her kids at home, and she’s inspiring others to do the same. “We noticed that the kids were having a really hard time being cramped inside the house, so we started an Instagram page for kids that may have lost their sports season and need a fun activity to do,” she explains.
“We put together a variety of track and field exercises that they can do in one place. It’s completely free. We have videos of our kids doing exercises with us demonstrating too, and it’s a great way to help parents give their children something to do.” Check them out below for some inspiration!
Lowe’s final piece of wisdom is appropriate for anyone. “My best advice is to be easy on yourself,” she says. “Find ways to relax and rejuvenate. Take some me-time everyday. This is a hard situation for all of us, and it’s really important to pay attention to your body.” On that note, we’ll be running a bubble bath and planning a morning work-out routine to start tomorrow.