The COVID-19 pandemic has led many people to put off routine health screenings due to fears of encountering the virus in public places, especially hospitals. One high jumper who’s training for her fifth Olympic Games is using her experience with breast cancer to encourage women to keep scheduling important health appointments.
36-year-old Chaunte Lowe initially found a very small lump in her breast during a self-examination when she was 34. The first doctor she saw said she shouldn’t be concerned and should get it checked in six years when she was 40.
When she noticed the lump had grown by last summer, she decided to go to another doctor to get a second opinion. The diagnosis was triple-negative breast cancer, an aggressive and fast-growing version of the disease. After she was diagnosed, Lowe had a double mastectomy and chemotherapy.
Lowe told Yahoo Sports, “I think back to the fact that if it were the middle of a pandemic, I don’t think I would have initially went back for that second appointment. That second appointment was so vital.”
Lowe is using her story as part of Cancer Screen Week, a partnership between the American Cancer Society, Genentech, Rally Health and Stand Up to Cancer. It got underway December 7th. Yahoo News says this year, screenings are falling through the cracks, with roughly two-thirds of Americans delaying them or skipping them.
Some people may also assume younger women wouldn’t have to worry so much about breast cancer.
Lowe told CNN, “I’m young, I’m healthy, I don’t drink, I’ve never drank, I don’t do drugs. I did all this stuff right to not have to be here. It was a misconception that leads to a lot of misdiagnoses early on, especially in young women.”
Thankfully, because Lowe pushed forward with her health screening, she’s now cancer-free and training for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
The COVID-19 pandemic’s postponement of the games has given Lowe a little more peace of mind. Her now compromised immune system would have caused her more stress if the Olympics had gone forward during the height of the pandemic.
Lowe said, “I would have been scared. And I would have had a lot of different worries going into it that maybe some of the other athletes didn’t have.”
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In order to keep herself as safe as possible, she did have to stop training in public places. Her sponsors, however, helped her put a jumping pit in her backyard and install a weight room in her garage to keep her goal of a fifth Games going.
Throughout her cancer journey, Lowe has been committed to sharing her progress on social media to help others going through or recovering from a similar diagnosis. She hopes what she’s been through will inspire others.
She told Sports Illustrated, “I felt like I had to use my platform to make a difference. On a relay you run faster, because you’re running for your team. In this, I’m running for Team American Woman.”