Olympic Gymnast Shannon Miller on Motherhood, Her Cancer Battle, Simone Biles & More! - Dallas Metro Moms

In 2024, the name Simone Biles dominates talk of the Summer Olympics and the Team USA gymnast squad. But before Simone, and more recent stars like Shawn Johnson, no one shone brighter than Olympic gymnast Shannon Miller in the 1992 and 1996 Games. Part of the historic “Magnificent Seven” that earned the US Women’s first Team Gold, she earned 7 Olympic medals—two gold, two silver and three bronze. In 1992, her five medals were the most of any athlete at those games.

Since then, she went to college and graduate school, eventually earning a law degree from Boston College. Professionally, Shannon worked as a commentator and an entrepreneur, and currently leads Shannon Miller Worldwide which is devoted to inspiring women to prioritize themselves and their health.

“As women and as moms, we’re often thinking about and doing things for everyone else in our lives. Often, we put off our own health whether that’s fitness, nutrition, sleep or getting to our regular doctor’s appointments,” says the Olympic gymnast, adding that becoming a mom (to Rocco, 14 and Sterling, 11), made her put off her own health and almost miss the doctor’s appointment that ended up saving her life.

Like the many Millennial and Gen X moms who idolized her back in the 90s, Shannon has experienced a lifetime of triumphs and challenges in the last thirty years.

On the eve of this year’s Summer Games, The Local Moms Network asked Shannon about her mission, her thoughts on Simone Biles and the state of US Gymnastics and more.

With the Summer Olympics around the corner, we can’t help but remember your domination of the Summer Games in the 1990s. What are your emotions as the Paris Games near?
I love Olympic year! My last Olympics was 27 years ago but the memories still come flooding back as we gear up to watch the Olympics in Paris. Part of me misses the camaraderie and the competition, other parts of me are super happy to be sitting comfortably watching and cheering, ha! I’m excited to be headed to Paris for work and to support all of the athletes that have worked so hard to get there.

I also love seeing sports that I don’t regularly watch or those I don’t know as much about. The Olympics has this electric atmosphere and it’s also a chance to see friends I haven’t seen in a while.

You’re often compared to Simone Biles—do you have any advice for her?
I have to giggle a bit when people compare me and Simone. There really is no comparison; she competes skills I couldn’t even dream of doing! Her triple twisting double back on floor exercise boggles my mind. I have never possessed that level of air awareness.

As for advice, I don’t know that Simone needs any extra advice. At most, I would tell her to trust herself, trust her training, don’t worry about anyone else’s expectations. Take it one step at a time and have fun.

How do you think elite gymnastics has changed since you were competing?
When I think of change in gymnastics, I think of everything from the different equipment, thicker landing mats (which stands out for me after years of hard landings), the scoring system, the focus on difficulty level and even the ability to be an apparatus specialist. Sometimes I get nostalgic for more artistry, but I also love the difficulty that’s being performed. And the ability to have event specialists compete allows for more of the best routines to be seen.

 

Olympic gymnast Shannon Miller and her son during her cancer battle<br />

Photo Credit: Lilian Hakim

You’re an advocate for women prioritizing their health.  Why do you think we don’t do that—and how did your cancer battle inspire you?
I was focused on helping women prioritize their health long before I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. In fact, I almost skipped my own wellness appointment but went in early out of pure guilt. It was at that appointment in 2010 that my doctor found a baseball sized cyst on my ovary which was then diagnosed as ovarian cancer.

I want women to know that making our health a priority is not selfish. In fact, it’s really selfless. It’s about making sure that you are as healthy as possible so that you can be there for so many who depend on you. Additionally, you’re setting a great example for your kids, grandkids and other loved ones. When others see you prioritize your health, they feel good about doing the same.

What are some ways we can take care of ourselves?
One of my favorite tips is simple; choose one thing to do today that will further your health goals. It might be as easy as drinking an extra glass of water. It could be 20 minutes of physical fitness, an extra hour of sleep or making your doctor’s appointment.

Whatever it is, just get it done today. Then tomorrow, choose one thing to accomplish, and put it at the top of your list. When you do this, two things will happen. First, all of these small achievements will, over time, add up to big health benefits. Second, you create a habit of making your health a priority. No second guessing, no guilt. Just choose one thing and get it done…today.

Great advice! What advice would you give other moms recently diagnosed with cancer that you wish you would have heard?
Something I battled early on in my treatments was isolation. The feeling that even while you are among so many people, doctors, nurses, etc. you can still feel completely alone in the process. I didn’t want to be a bother or complain. I didn’t advocate for myself. It took some pretty difficult moments and some very special nurses to help me understand that I was certainly not alone. That it was good to speak up. It was important to ask questions and let them know when something wasn’t working well. Once I let my guard down, I realized it wasn’t just the medical, that I had so many people around me willing to pitch in and help. I had a team, just like in sport. I want women to know that there is strength in not only accepting help when offered, but in asking for help when needed.

Your son was only 16 months old when you started chemotherapy treatments. What would you share with mothers of young children who are going through their own battle?
Learning I had cancer when my son was so young was both the hardest thing and the best thing at the same time. I was terrified going into surgery wondering if it was cancer, had it spread? Would my son have a mother? It was heart wrenching. After learning it was cancer and that I would need to go through chemotherapy, my focus went directly to the battle. I had this amazing little boy that I needed to be there for, and I was going to do whatever I could to get healthy.

Looking back, the issues that stand out most were losing my hair and being too sick to spend as much time as I would like with my son. These are issues that so many moms battle along with the fight of their life. When my hair started falling out, I was worried he’d be scared of me. But from the first moment he saw my bald head, all he saw was mom’s new hairdo. And on those days that I could barely function past the nausea and fatigue, I learned that less time didn’t mean being less of a mom. The moments I spent with him were important for both of us, but I could also focus on doing my best to get healthy. He gave me the strength to keep going even on the toughest days.

Do you keep in touch with any of the Magnificent 7? If so, who and what do you chat about?
I try to keep in touch with both my 1992 and 1996 Olympic Teams as well as other competitors both in the US and those from around the world. Any time we can put together a girl’s trip or meet at different events or activities, it’s fantastic. We just pick up right where we left off even if it’s been years. We chat about all the things friends and moms chat about. It went from talking about diapers and preschool to activities and exclamations of “they’re getting so big.” We touch on gymnastics, but we also talk about our work or what’s going on in our lives. It’s just fun to be around people that have that shared background and this common bond.

What are you working on now? We hear you have a new launch just for women and moms!
I’m so fortunate to be able to spend a lot of time with my children while still working passionately on so many projects. For over twenty years, I’ve been a motivational speaker talking with Fortune 500 companies and non-profits and empowering others through the “Gold Medal Mindset.” It’s such a passion of mine. In addition to my work in the cancer community, I have the amazing blessing to speak to so many about survivorship and health & fitness in general. I even started filming 10-minute home fitness videos for YouTube just to help myself and other busy moms check the box on physical fitness.

And, yes, I’m so excited! I just launched my “Infinite Flips Box” which is my new clothing subscription service that provides unlimited rentals and allows you to rotate your wardrobe with less closet clutter, less waste, less expense and more options. You choose what you want for whatever your life demands.