Putting everyone on High Alert!
Chaunté Lowe was diagnosed with breast cancer two days after the inspirational runner and cancer warrior Gabriele Grunewald died in mid-June following a 10-year battle.
“It’s like, ‘Oh wow, this is not the baton you want to be handed,’” said Lowe, the 2008 Olympic high jump bronze medalist, “but it’s so important for awareness and continuing research. There are so many people suffering from breast cancer, which I wasn’t paying much attention to before this happened to me." “Now I’m paying attention.”
Lowe, a 35-year-old mother of three, crossed paths with Grunewald at meets and closely followed her story, including the formation of the Brave Like Gabe foundation. Grunewald had a rare form of cancer that began in her salivary glands and eventually spread to other parts of her body. “She grabbed all of our hearts,” Lowe said, “as a racer, as a competitor and as a fighter.”
The high jumper has her own mission: an emphasis on early detection of breast cancer. Mammograms are usually not recommended for women under age 40 because the risk of cancer is considered low and the procedure is not as effective on younger women. “If I would have waited until 40, I would not be here,” Lowe said. “I would not have made my 40th birthday.” She knows she’ll have a platform to spread that message worldwide if she makes her fifth straight Olympic team and represents the United States at the Olympic Games Tokyo, now set for Summer 2021.
“No. 1, I’m fighting and competing for my life,” Lowe said. “It’s like training is something that’s familiar to me. It’s something that I understand. It’s something that I can control. It makes me happy. It brings me joy.
“But at the same time, it’s like, ‘If I can get on that next Olympic, team, I want to use that platform to make younger women aware. Check yourself. This can happen to you.’ I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I exercise regularly – these are all the things that they say should prevent something like this from happening. It seems like right now our greatest defense is early detection.”