The Power of Community

Ovarian Cancer Survivor Shannon Miller

Shannon Miller is a seven-time Olympic medalist in gymnastics. She is also a mother, an author, a dedicated health and wellness advocate, and an ovarian cancer survivor. An unexpected cancer diagnosis, and the treatment journey that followed, forced her to discover a new normal and has further fueled her passion of empowering and educating women around health and wellness. The following is a first-hand account from Shannon on the power of community.

What helped me after my experience with ovarian cancer?

When I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, resources and support communities such as Our Way Forward did not exist. I reflect back and think how helpful it would have been to band together with a community of women and care partners who understood what I was going through, whether they had just learned of their diagnosis, were a survivor or at any other point along the disease continuum.

Now that these resources are available and accessible online, on social media and at live events, it is so important for people to access these resources and feel empowered to speak up about their personal experiences or that of their loved ones. With almost 22,000 women diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the United States each yeari, there is power in joining a community. I am grateful that my treatment went successfully and I can now feel empowered to share my story broadly and grow this community.

Recently, Our Way Forward joined with The MOMS, a lifestyle, multi-media company reaching moms, to host a special MAMARAZZI® event in Los Angeles. The room was filled with so many women, and even men—most with a connection to cancer. At this event, I was able to continue sharing my story and help raise awareness about ovarian cancer, while encouraging others in the room to talk about their experiences and seek out resources. I was touched to hear so many women discuss their personal journeys with cancer or from those who are care partners and how cancer has affected them. Events like this remind me of the power in connecting with others.

During my conversations at the event, I shared the two biggest pieces of advice I received during my ovarian cancer diagnosis. The first, to not feel guilty focusing on MY health. As women, we tend to be focused on everyone and everything else, and our endless to-do list leads us to pushing our health on the back burner. We owe it to ourselves to make our health a leading part of our priorities. My next piece of advice for newly diagnosed women: it’s okay to not only accept help, which can be very difficult when you’re used to handling everything, but it’s also really important to lean on your community and ASK for help. It’s not a sign of weakness, it’s an understanding that we need to rely on our community to help. We may think we are burdening family, but, in fact, they want to help and it makes them feel better to lighten our load.

Community is the foundation for fostering support. Sharing your story and reaching out to others forms that community, which in turn encourages people to want to learn and grow from one another.

So remember, next time you think someone has something to share, proactively ask them and let them know you are here to listen. You never know what connections you’ll form or the unequivocal support you may have offered just by listening!

i. Cancer Facts and Figures 2018. American Cancer Society. Accessed September 21, 2018.