We’re just months away from the Tokyo Olympics. This summer, athletes from around the world will come together to compete, demonstrating their skills, strength and dedication to their respective sports.
Four-time Olympian Chaunté Lowe is one of many athletes hoping to make Team USA this year. On the road to journey to her fifth Olympic Games, the track star battled—and beat—cancer and COVID-19. After successfully undergoing chemotherapy, a double mastectomy and reconstruction, Lowe resumed training for her event with a custom high jump pit in her backyard.
Next month, Lowe will take part in the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials to earn a spot on Team USA. In an exclusive interview with Motherly, Lowe explained why she’s ready to compete: for herself, her teammates, her country and her children.
Read on to learn why Chaunté Lowe says being a mother made her a stronger competitor:
Can you tell me a little bit about your athletic career?
Lowe: I jump over a bar for a living. [laughing] No, I’m a four-time Olympian and the American record-holder in the women’s high jump. I’m currently training for my fifth Olympic games through chemotherapy, a cancer diagnosis and a COVID pandemic. So, the triple C’s.
How do you define yourself?
Lowe: Oh gosh, that’s the hardest question I’ve had all day! I would definitely say it’s fitting with Motherly. I define myself as a mother who has all of these other tasks and different interests—but definitely a mother first.
Do you share your sport with your kids? Are they training with you?
Lowe: Yes, sometimes. If Mommy’s going to throw a fit on the high jump apron, I don’t want the kids to see that. But for the most part, yes. It’s so funny because my son, he watches me do my ab training and he showed me his six-pack yesterday! My little seven-year-old has a six-pack and I’m so proud of him.
Joe Scarnici / Stringer
What do they think about you and your job?
Lowe: At first, they said I didn’t work. I’d say, “no, mommy works.” They’d say, “No, you work out but everybody works out.” But now, they see me working out, they see me going to competitions. I’m doing tons of motivational speaking so they see me doing that from home. I think that’s probably the best thing from this pandemic. They’re like, “oh my gosh, Mommy really works.”
How are you preparing for your fifth Olympics?
Lowe: It’s definitely unconventional but I have a high jump apron that is placed in my backyard, with the help of Olay, Walgreen’s and Proctor & Gamble. They were able to help me fund that endeavor, so I have some rubber in the back and a high jump landing pit. I’m jumping in the backyard, running in the streets, lifting weights in my garage and there is definitely nothing normal about this training season.
You are a mother to three and an Olympian. How do you take the lessons learned from each of those roles and apply them to the other side?
Lowe: There was one thing I used to do when I was younger, when I was training, before I was a mother. I would be terrified to go to practice because of the pain, the lactic acid build-up, being scared that I would get sick at the end of practice—I was just terrified. But I would go anyways, every day.
But then after having kids and feeling the pain of childbirth, I was no longer afraid of going to practice. It made me a stronger competitor. My American records came after being a mom. I broke the American record three times after being a mom. Won a world championship after being a mom. Got a medal after being a mom. So, it made me a stronger competitor.
Now, the other side of it is, my parenting style is very much, ‘no, you’re not getting away with anything. You have no excuses, you’ve seen me go through it.’ And they have to come really hard with it if they want me to follow their excuse because no, we work through stuff here.
Ezra Shaw / Staff
Can you speak to your journey with cancer and surgery? Are you comfortable speaking about that?
Lowe: Sadly, I love speaking about it because I know speaking about it will help other people. The beginning of it was that I found the lump myself. I was dismissed by doctors and they didn’t think that it was breast cancer. So, I went home very happy but I was adamant about doing my self-breast exams, at least monthly. And I found the lump and I went back to the doctor. It had tripled in size. I had to be the advocate for myself to get that diagnosis.
I’ve faced a lot of challenges and I’m one to face them head-on, so with the help of my doctors, the decision was made to get chemotherapy, the double mastectomy and have a reconstruction.
Throughout that process, I started learning about the plight of women, especially in America, facing breast cancer. The statistic is one in eight women in their lifetime will be diagnosed. One in eight. That is astronomical.
I started realizing all these things that I could have done to prevent it. I focused really on the things I wasn’t doing. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t do this, I don’t eat fried foods. But I was not focusing on what I was putting in myself internally or externally, the positive that would actually help me in my health journey. Now I’m really focusing on my whole total body wellness. And that’s mental, emotional, physical and internal.
And now how is your health? Are you healthy?
Lowe: Yes! Yes, I am cancer-free. The biggest fear was getting COVID because my immune system was very, very compromised because of chemotherapy. But I got COVID and I’m OK.
Last month, our whole family—all five of us—got COVID and it was definitely scary at first. I’m very happy that we were able to make it through and I know that’s not the same for everyone. That was definitely was my biggest worry throughout this year.
So, you had cancer. Beat cancer. You had COVID. You beat COVID. And now, we’re looking toward the Olympics.
Lowe: We’re looking forward to it! I would love to say, ‘I did this,’ but really, it’s been about my team. I’ve had an amazing team around me. Just being able to partner with Olay and Walgreens and really having them organize this for us to be able to talk, being able to share my story in this platform, I really feel like my goal is that no matter what adversity women may face, that they still go after their goals and try to find a way. And still being kind to themselves and caring for themselves but really focusing toward that.
Is there anything that I didn’t ask you that you wish I did?
Lowe: I just want my kids to look at me and see everything that I went through. They saw me when I was down and out from chemotherapy. They saw the weight loss and the weight gain and everything and even throughout all that, they know that I’m doing it for other women.
I want my kids to really take it upon themselves to take up the plights of other people and love people regardless of color, skin, gender, identity. I want them to love people and that’s what I want them to see. I hope that I’m able to instill that in them young and that it carries on to when they grow older and pass that on to their kids.