Chaunté Lowe attends the 2017 Team USA Awards on Nov. 29, 2017 in Westwood, Calif.
Four-time Olympic high jumper Chaunté Lowe is raising the bar for breast cancer awareness.
After being diagnosed with the disease two years ago at age 35, Lowe is now cancer-free. Yet the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist continues to champion the expansion of resources and support for those facing breast cancer, especially in the African American community, while urging people to be proactive by knowing the risks and getting tested.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but for Lowe the mission is front and center every day of the year.
“I think that sometimes not everybody likes to share and talk about what they’re going through,” she said. “It’s a very personal, very emotional situation, but I felt like there was no way that I couldn’t share it if there was a chance that even one life would be saved.”
Lowe is a Global Ambassador for the American Cancer Society and earlier this month became the spokesperson for a new partnership between pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and patient advocacy group Susan G. Komen. The initiative will provide increased resources in support of black women facing breast cancer in Indianapolis, Chicago and St. Louis.
The high jumper, who recently began training for the 2022 indoor and outdoor seasons, knows she can make the greatest impact by lifting her voice.
“I feel that I’m a mouthpiece,” said Lowe, who is the American indoor and outdoor record holder in her event. “I love to talk, and so I’m very vocal about it on any platform that I have.”
Her battle against breast cancer drew international attention in 2019 and in the lead-up to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, with appearances on NBC’s “Today Show,” CNN and in various newspapers and websites. Lowe also has a thriving speaking business where she gives talks at events and does corporate coaching.
“I always find a way to tie that in there,” she said of her advocacy.
According to the CDC, about 42,000 women and 500 men in the United States die each year from breast cancer.
“There are a lot of very abysmal numbers,” Lowe said. “There’s a statistic that one in eight women in their lifetime will be diagnosed with breast cancer, but when it comes to African Americans, we have found that the outcomes for breast cancer compared to our white counterparts are very alarming -- that black women are 40 percent more likely to die of breast cancer.
“And a variety of factors go into that: systemic racism, lack of information, hereditary factors, lack of research and not having access to resources. So my advocacy work is toward addressing those barriers.”
As a competitive athlete, Lowe has a bigger stage to get the word out.
She competed in her first Olympic Games in 2004 when she was 20. The NCAA champ from Georgia Tech placed sixth in both Beijing and London, then finished fourth in 2016, wondering if her best shot at an Olympic medal had just slipped through her fingers.
It turned out that Lowe’s performance eight years earlier should have put her on the podium. When the Beijing doping samples were re-tested – which is standard practice – Lowe found out in late 2016 that the Russian jumpers who placed third and fourth and the Ukrainian who was fifth were disqualified.
In November 2017, she was officially awarded the Olympic bronze medal. (She later moved up to fifth in London when another Russian was DQed).