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2 • Friday, April 12, 2013

New You « Celebrit y By Lisa Iannucci for the herald-tribune


n athlete dedicates herself to her sport, hoping for those golden moments, whether it’s winning a game, breaking a world record or winning the epitome of sports competitions, such as the World Series or Super Bowl, or even earning a medal in the Olympics. Then what? Once the lights have dimmed, the crowds have dispersed and the fanfare is over, what happens next? For Shannon Miller, one of the most decorated Olympic gymnasts in the sport’s history, the end of her gymnastics career meant facing some of her worst fears and, ultimately, her biggest battle. You might remember the Fierce Five girls gymnasts from the 2012 Olympics, but Miller lead the Magnificent Seven at the 1996 Olympic games, winning five medals, two silver and three bronze. The team went on to win the US Women’s first-ever Team Gold and Miller captured the first gold on the balance beam for an American gymnast. She is also the only American to rank among the Top 10 AllTime gymnasts and is the only female athlete to be inducted into the US Olympics Hall of Fame – twice. (Individual in 2006 and Team in 2008.) But when her gymnastics career was over, Miller faced with difficulty what other athletes might have found to be a reward for her years of hard work and success.“I was painfully shy growing up and gymnastics was helpful because I blocked out the crowd,” she says.“But I couldn’t see myself speaking to thousands of people. After I retired from the Olympics, speaking jobs came along and I was terrified.” She plunged into her new opportunities with the same dedication and aggres-

sion with which she did her gymnastics and discovered that she enjoyed public speaking. She became passionate about talking about health and fitness.“As a woman, I felt like that was where I needed to be,” she says.“I needed to be a voice for women and children’s health.” Today, she hosts her own radio show, Shannon Miller Lifestyle Radio, on Newstalk Radio WOKV in Jacksonville, Florida, was a reporter for Yahoo Sports during the 2012 Olympic Games in London and hosts "The Wish List With Shannon Miller" on the Health & Wellness Channel, where she travels the country granting wishes of children and young adults with life-threatening medical conditions. She has published many books and DVDs and started her own foundation, The Shannon Miller Foundation, which brings awareness to childhood obesity. “No matter what the topic we discuss on the radio, obesity comes up because it causes so many other issues and, to some degree, we have some control over it,” she says. But finding the strength to face an audience was nothing compared to her next challenge in life, when her career and her new dreams came to a screeching halt at her doctor’s office in December 2010. “I was thinking about having another baby and I wanted to have an exam and make sure all was OK, but I almost skipped the exam,” says the mom of son Rocco. Unfortunately, the doctors found a seven centimeter cyst on Miller’s left ovary.“I went into a whirlwind of tests and exams,” she says.“By January, I was at the oncologist’s office talking about tumors and malignancies.” She was diagnosed with an ovarian germ cell tumor. According to the National Cancer Institute, Ovarian Germ Cell Tumor is a disease in which malignant (cancer)

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“No matter what the topic we discuss on the radio, obesity comes up because it causes so many other issues.”

cells form in the germ (egg) cells of the ovary. Ovarian germ cell tumors usually occur in teenage girls or young women and most often affect just one ovary. Although she wanted to have another child, Miller also wanted to be around for her son. “As I was being put under, I didn’t know what I was going to wake up to,” she says. “I wanted to be completely safe and put our trust in God,” she says.“I woke up and they had removed only one tube and ovary so I had a good chance of getting pregnant again.” Miller completed eight weeks of recovery followed by chemotherapy, but she admits that she went through an emotional self-exam of her own.“What was it about me or what did I do?” she asked herself.“I didn’t want to do it again, but with some of the cancers we just don’t know why it happens. That was a little difficult to understand, but instead I just focused on moving forward and being.” Although she regained her emotional strength, she still needed to recuperate physically. After losing 10 percent of her bodyweight from the surgery, she also lost her stamina. “I had to get calories back in me and start exercising again, but even a five-minute walk, particularly in those rough weeks of chemo, was difficult,” she says.“When I could do 10 minutes of gentle yoga, it empowered me and I started feeling a little like my old self.” She relied on her husband for both physical and emotional support.“He runs his

own business and was taking care of his father who had stage four colon cancer at the same time,” Miller says.“He was there for his father, mom, me and our son; he’s the one who kept everyone together.” She has since written an e-book, “Competing with Cancer: My Journey, My Mindset, My Mission” about her comeback and, when it comes to helping others to rebuild their life again after cancer, Miller says that it comes back to priorities and goal setting. “Living was the ultimate priority and what would I have to do to get there?” she says.“I needed to learn it was OK to ask for help. I don’t have to do it all; dishes are fine and people can bring you food. Think about yourself and figure out what you’re OK with letting go of.” Today, Miller is cancer free, but will be observed and regularly tested.“When I was going through my battle with cancer, I felt out of control,” she says.“Now I can do something positive with myself. My work shows people that it’s OK to take care of yourself. It’s not selfish to take a 30-minute walk or take a little longer to prepare a healthier meal. She says to remember to do what it takes to get yourself healthy, such as staying hydrated, taking medication, keeping doctor appointments and keeping your faith.“God has a plan; it’s a good one, so try to hang on for the ride and control what you can control.” For more information on Shannon Miller, visit

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