WEATHER AUTHORITY : Flood Advisory View Alerts

The breast cancer survivor determined to make her fifth Olympic Games in 2021

Chaunté Lowe is a four-time Olympian and American-record holder in the women's indoor and outdoor high jump. Two years ago, she discovered a rice-sized lump in her breast that changed her life forever.

Posted: Apr 1, 2020 9:02 AM
Updated: Apr 1, 2020 11:00 AM


Chaunté Lowe is accustomed to having her world turned upside down.

A four-time Olympic high jumper and the bronze medalist from the Games in Beijing 2008, she was diagnosed with breast cancer last year.

It was unexpected, to say the least.

'I'm young, I'm healthy, I don't drink, I've never drank, I don't do drugs,' 36-year old Lowe tells CNN as she reflects on her cancer diagnosis.

'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.'

READ: Tokyo 2020: 48 hours that rocked the Olympics

READ: The 'Lost Games': When the Olympics are stopped by extraordinary events

Successful treatment

An initial misdiagnosis made matters worse.

A small, rice-sized lump drove Lowe to visit the doctor when she was 34.

The doctor deemed it innocuous, according to Lowe, who says he told her 'definitively, I don't want to see you for six years' until she turned 40.

Thankfully, as an Olympic athlete she monitors her body 'like a fine tuned machine.'

Lowe says she felt the lump growing every day, something she describes as 'terrifying.'

After 11 months she sought a second opinion, and was immediately sent for a biopsy.

Lowe later found out she had triple negative breast cancer -- a very aggressive, fast growing form of the cancer -- something that affects women with West African ancestry at rates that are significantly higher than for other groups, according to the American Cancer Society.

Had the cancer been diagnosed correctly the first time, it is possible she would have needed only a lumpectomy with radiation, according to a spokesperson for the Susan G. Komen breast cancer organization.

Instead, Lowe underwent a double mastectomy and chemotherapy in 2019.

'He was definitely an easy target,' Lowe says of her first doctor. 'But, I will say that the only thing that I probably wish he would have done different is not said, 'definitively, there's nothing wrong.''

She says her treatment has been successful though, and new doctors have found no further evidence of cancerous cells.

However, her body is still recovering from chemotherapy, which has weakened her immune system.

A second bar to jump

The outbreak of coronavirus complicates matters for Lowe.

Owing to her weakened immune system, she is now classed as a vulnerable person, something that Lowe indicates is uncomfortable but 'eye-opening.'

Despite serious health concerns, Lowe had been determined to compete at Tokyo 2020.

'I would have been scared,' she says. 'And I would have had a lot of different worries going into it that maybe some of the other athletes didn't have.'

But with the Olympics now postponed to 2021, the high jumper is more determined than ever to make the squad.

In 2008, Lowe finished sixth in the Olympic high jump competition but was later upgraded to bronze when three athletes above her tested positive for banned substances.

Lowe wants to use the buildup and the event itself to raise awareness for breast cancer.

More than 42,000 women are expected to die from breast cancer in the US this year, according to the American Cancer Society.

In 2018, there were more than two million new breast cancer cases worldwide, according to World Cancer Research Fund International.

Researchers stress that early detection of breast cancer leads to the highest rates of survival. Lowe hopes that, by raising awareness, she can help others.

As for the Olympics, Lowe says the International Olympic Committee made the right call to postpone the event.

But she recognizes the impact and disruption the postponement could have on athletes.

'You put your life on hold for the Olympics,' she says. 'Imagine if you've ever been on a tough diet, and you're like, 'OK, I could hold it for this long, but at this point in time, I'm going to break.'

'And now they're telling you everything that you've done to put your life on hold, you have to do it a whole other year -- it's going to be very difficult.'

Lowe has spoken to fellow athletes who are unsure if they will be able to make it to Tokyo next year, adding that 'mentally, it's exhausting.'

She relates the impact Covid-19 has had on athletes everywhere to her experience of breast cancer.

'You're at peak physical health,' she explains. 'You have dreams of going to the Olympics, competing on the world stage, to represent your country, your family, your sport, and then all of a sudden, it's ripped from you.'

READ: Covid-19 is making some athletes with OCD scrub their hands down to the underlying muscle and tissue

'Mental health barrier'

The president of World Athletics, Sebastian Coe, says the postponement of the Games was necessary to safeguard the psychological well-being of athletes, many of whom he says were in 'mental turmoil.'

Lowe agrees that athletes' mental health has been, and will continue to be, affected by the postponement.

'Mentally, you're going to have to focus on positive things and I definitely think there could be a mental health barrier,' she says.

'They're going to have to look at athletes that have overcome obstacles and still get there and have their Olympic moments and achieve their goals.'

READ: Katie Ledecky hoping next year's Olympics can be a celebration of 'the entire world coming together'

While training for the Olympics, Lowe has also been raising three children.

Now she's a breast cancer survivor too, determined to support others and spread awareness about the illness.

And amid the impact of a global pandemic, she is also determined to look for positives.

'By us all being apart, it shows that we're all coming together,' she says. 'Everybody cares about the well-being of our world and the health of our world.

'Everyone had to take part in this process of making sure that our world is healthy.

'And so I think that it [the Tokyo Olympics] will be a time of peace, a time of celebration, and hopefully, a time to remember where we all had to come together as one world to save the world.'

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 28770

Reported Deaths: 1092
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds224739
DeSoto144216
Madison124234
Jones109149
Neshoba97070
Lauderdale89479
Rankin86012
Forrest82942
Harrison79410
Scott75715
Copiah58016
Leake56519
Jackson55716
Holmes53641
Wayne52212
Lee51816
Oktibbeha51625
Washington5129
Yazoo4786
Leflore47449
Warren46317
Lowndes45912
Lincoln43734
Lamar4317
Grenada3965
Pike39312
Monroe37529
Lafayette3684
Attala35523
Newton3329
Sunflower3216
Covington3175
Bolivar29813
Panola2956
Adams28018
Simpson2713
Chickasaw26418
Tate2648
Marion26311
Pontotoc2616
Jasper2516
Noxubee2478
Pearl River24532
Clay24410
Winston2446
Claiborne23910
Marshall2123
Smith21111
Clarke20424
Coahoma1906
Union1819
Walthall1794
Kemper17614
Yalobusha1667
Lawrence1621
Carroll16111
Humphreys1309
Itawamba1308
Tippah12711
Webster12610
Calhoun1244
Montgomery1242
Hancock12313
Tallahatchie1153
Jefferson Davis1074
Prentiss1003
Greene968
Jefferson963
Wilkinson929
Tunica903
Amite842
George753
Tishomingo731
Choctaw724
Quitman690
Perry634
Alcorn601
Stone541
Franklin392
Benton270
Sharkey270
Issaquena81
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 41362

Reported Deaths: 983
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson4532143
Montgomery3875102
Mobile3797134
Tuscaloosa210739
Marshall162210
Lee124537
Shelby110923
Madison11047
Morgan10203
Walker87123
Franklin86314
Dallas8419
Elmore83614
Baldwin7359
Etowah64413
DeKalb6415
Butler60727
Chambers60027
Tallapoosa57269
Autauga55312
Unassigned50724
Russell5030
Lowndes45820
Lauderdale4576
Houston4464
Limestone4290
Cullman4114
Pike4075
Colbert3775
Bullock3649
Coffee3592
Barbour3331
Covington3327
St. Clair3192
Marengo29911
Hale29621
Escambia2936
Wilcox2848
Talladega2827
Calhoun2805
Sumter27912
Clarke2686
Dale2620
Jackson2522
Winston2373
Blount2181
Pickens2176
Chilton2152
Marion20613
Monroe2052
Choctaw19212
Randolph1889
Conecuh1866
Greene1788
Macon1778
Bibb1761
Perry1541
Henry1303
Crenshaw1243
Washington1027
Lawrence1000
Cherokee797
Lamar711
Geneva700
Fayette671
Clay612
Coosa571
Cleburne301
Out of AL00
Tupelo
Clear
82° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 87°
Columbus
Overcast
82° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 89°
Oxford
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 85°
Starkville
Scattered Clouds
82° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 88°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather