For those too young to remember, Lynda Carter was the star in television’s 1975-1979 hit series “Wonder Woman” about the world’s most famous female superhero, aka the “Warrior Princess.” If they ever want to reboot the series or even make a movie about W.W., I’ve got just the woman, Santa Monica resident Carolyn Hollingsworth.
In addition to a challenging full-time job, and taking care of her dogs and horses, every week Carolyn’s training includes swimming 15 miles in the ocean. (If only she wasn’t so lazy!) But, to get a glimpse of her in action you’d have to get up at the crack of dawn, which is when she first dips her toes into our now chilly bay.
A competitive athlete for over 30 years, Carolyn has been a standout in track, cross country, marathons and Iron-Man contests. (Or should I say “Iron Person” contests?”) Carolyn’s sister, Alison, a neighbor of mine and also a “studette” athlete, is how I met Carolyn. It certainly wasn’t from me getting up at the crack of dawn.
Their late father excelled in hockey, gymnastics and baseball, the latter professionally in the Milwaukee Braves organization. So some of it’s DNA but for Carolyn the greater the obstacle, the more inspired she gets. So you could say in addition to looking the part of Wonder Woman, she also acts it.
Tomorrow, Carolyn starts the New Year by competing, with 24 other top-flight distance swimmers, in the “Alcatraz Swim.” While we’re sunning ourselves outside having a latte at Starbucks, Carolyn will be battling cold, windy and possibly rainy conditions swimming from Alcatraz to the city shore. If the water is 55 degrees she’ll be lucky. But no matter how brutal the conditions, for Carolyn quitting is never an option. (Sometimes that’s how I feel about these columns!)
As much as Carolyn thrives on challenges, ten years ago she was presented with an overwhelming one. A private person, Carolyn’s recently revealed being afflicted with a major illness, previously known only by her family and close friends. Seemingly out of nowhere, she began experiencing incredible joint pain and debilitating fatigue. She tried toughing it out but finally she had to see a doctor, which soon became a team of doctors.
Carolyn was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease Lupus, a mysterious, chronic illness that attacks vital organs, joints and muscles with unpredictable and devastating consequences. The insidious disease robbed her of everything she had worked so hard for.
Her doctors had her try an assortment of treatments including two years of chemotherapy IV drip and other cancer protocols. Her heart was affected, there was swelling of the brain and numerous hospitalizations. Suddenly, running and swimming were no longer her priorities. Surviving was.
Being a positive person and harnessing all the strength and pain tolerance she had acquired through years of athletic training, Carolyn faced her treatment head on. “Deep inside me, I always knew that someday I would get back to my passion.” It took four difficult years but, “Thanks to my amazing doctors, family, friends and my positive attitude and determined spirit I’ve been able to make a comeback.”
And Carolyn is back! And as hungry to swim as ever. “I have lupus but lupus doesn’t have me,” she says proudly. Unable to have children due to Lupus with the chemo and meds, her dogs and horses are therapeutic and the long hours swimming in the ocean are her meditation. (If Hallmark ever makes a movie, Angelina Jolie has to play Carolyn.)
With her disease under control, Carolyn ought to be a spokesperson for the Lupus Foundation, which perhaps is a possibility some day. Hoping to inspire others, Carolyn’s determined to prove that anyone is capable of anything with the right attitude and belief in themselves.
Meanwhile, Carolyn’s looks confidently to the future. In 2015 she plans to compete in the rigorous Catalina Swim. And for 2016 she’s already entered in the English Channel Swim, an extremely difficult challenge. In fact, more people have climbed Mount Everest than have completed the Channel swim. (Knowing Carolyn, she might do both.)
And who knows what the future will bring. If Hollywood wants to remake Wonder Woman they should come to Santa Monica to see a real life superhero, Carolyn training 6 days a week. That is, assuming they’re willing to get up at the crack of dawn.
For more information about Lupus, go towww.lupus.org. To find out about the latest in Lupus research advances and clinical trials, visitwww.lupusResearchInstitute.org. Jack is at facebook.com/jackneworth, twitter.com/jackneworth email@example.com.