HOT SPRINGS -- Shannon Miller, a 1996 Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast, had a rare form of ovarian cancer in 2011.
Her husband had taken their toddler home, and she was lying in the dark hospital room alone. The only sound was the soft beeping machines in the background.
"I just remember thinking 'I don't think I can do this,'" Miller said of the moment.
At that time, she had recently undergone surgery to remove a baseball-sized cyst on her left ovary, and subsequently began chemotherapy. The first week of chemotherapy, she couldn't keep down food or water. Miller landed back in the hospital.
She said she had prepared for chemotherapy. After all, her body had withstood the Olympics.
"And so here I am giving myself these pep talks," Miller said. "'You can do this. You used to work out 40-plus hours a week. You can do this. You're an Olympic gold medalist. You can do this.' Well pep talks are nice, but the first week of chemo was a lot tougher than I ever imagined," Miller said.
At that moment -- as Miller began to doubt that she could fight the cancer -- a nurse walked in. Miller said she doesn't remember what the nurse said or did, but it gave her hope. It reminded her that, just like in the Olympics, she had a team backing her up.
Miller said this to an auditorium filled with lawyers at the 121st annual Arkansas Bar Association annual conference Thursday afternoon. She told the story of her life, which audience member Payton Bentley called inspiring.
Miller, who grew up in Oklahoma, began by talking about her Olympic days, moving on to cover her life after the Olympics. She went to Boston College's law school. She began advocating for children and women's health. She got cancer.
At the conference, she stood on the stage and told her listeners that this summer she will celebrate 23 years since that first gold medal. But last weekend, she celebrated eight years cancer free, and she said for her that is a much more important anniversary. The room broke intp applause.
"And I know that I could not have done either without my team," Miller said.
Sara Lingo, who sat in the crowd, said that Miller provided useful tools that Lingo can use working at her law firm.
Miller reiterated the importance of being a team player, remaining positive, setting goals and committing to excellence. She said gymnastics taught her these values.
The message resonated with Lingo, who said she often has to collaborate with people at the firm.
"It hit a little close to home for me," Lingo said.
Samuel Mundy, who sat beside Lingo during the speech, said he appreciated that Miller repeatedly emphasized the importance of preparation -- whether it be for law work or gymnastics -- to success.
"It's not something that you automatically get," Mundy said about success.
Miller, who experienced success through seven Olympic medals, competed in the 1992 and 1996 Olympics. In 1996, she led the U.S. women's team, dubbed "The Magnificent Seven," to be the first U.S. gymnastics team to win gold at the Olympics, winning two gold medals of her own.
Throughout her life, Miller said she has tried to keep a winning mindset. She reminded the lawyers that what they do every day matters and that it's all the preparation that allows success to happen.
"The moment that matters most is often not glamorous," Miller said. "It is not all that exciting. Because the moment that matters most is back in the hot, sweaty, chalky gym doing push up after push up after push up when nobody's watching. Nobody's counting for you. The cameras aren't rolling. That's the moment that matters most. Because the magic happens in the work we do each and every day."
Metro on 06/14/2019
Print Headline: Teamwork is key, gymnast tells lawyers