As a Navy nurse during World War II, Nash spent 37 months in a Japanese prison camp in the Philippines, where she treated hundreds of fellow prisoners despite her own ill health. When U.S. troops arrived in 1945, she was gravely malnourished. But Nash (at left, savoring a box of chocolates after the camp was liberated) enjoyed a long nursing career before her death in 1992.
Michael J. Fox
After the 1998 disclosure that he had Parkinson's, Fox started a foundation to seek a cure and traded acting for activism. Several years later, despite worsening symptoms, he made a comeback that included Emmy-winning appearances on "Boston Legal" and a recurring role on "The Good Wife." A father of four who's been married to actress Tracy Pollan for 27 years, Fox, 54, summed up his outlook with the title of his 2002 memoir: "Lucky Man."
She was waiting for an elevator at One World Trade Center on 9/11 when the elevator bank burst in flames. A partner at an investment bank, Manning went to the hospital with burns covering 80 percent of her body. Six months later, her husband drove her back to their apartment. As she writes in "Unmeasured Strength," her 2011 memoir, "the little boy enjoying his nap down the hall had saved me, had been the true beacon guiding me home."
Deraniyagala spent Christmas 2004 with her family on an idyllic beach in Sri Lanka, where she'd grown up before moving to London to study economics. The next day a tsunami killed the five people she loved most—her parents, husband and two young sons—and left her nearly drowning in grief. Yet Deraniyagala, now 51, found the courage to go on, a struggle she recounts in her powerful and moving 2014 memoir "Wave."
R. Norris Williams
He'd just begun to make his mark in tennis when, at the age of 21, Williams booked a ticket on the Titanic. Washed overboard as the ship sank, he swam to a lifeboat and then sat for hours in icy water. A rescue ship doctor wanted to amputate his frostbitten legs, but Williams insisted on walking through the pain—and, a year later, won the first of five U.S. Tennis Championships. He died in 1968, at 77.
Walls, 55, grew up without comfort and security. At times homeless, her family drifted around the country, eventually settling in West Virginia, in a rat-infested house with no plumbing. But at 17, Walls moved to New York, where she put herself through Barnard College, graduating with honors in 1984, and went on to write a best-seller "The Glass Castle." A film version of her memoir, starring Jennifer Lawrence, is currently in the works.
Born without a right hand, Abbott taught himself to throw and catch with his left and went on to become a world-class pitcher. After winning an Olympic gold medal in 1988, he played for several Major League teams—and even pitched a no-hitter for the New York Yankees (on the day this photo was taken). "I never wanted to make a real big deal about that," Abbott, 47, says of his birth defect. "I still don't."
In her autobiography "I, Tina," the former lead singer of the Ike & Tina Turner Review recalled years of abuse at the hands of her husband Ike, who she said beat her, burned her with cigarettes and poured scalding coffee in her face. (Ike denied the charges.) But Tina Turner broke free and, as a soloist, saw greater success than ever, starting in 1984 with her No. 1 hit, "What's Love Got to Do With It." Now 75, Turner has won 11 Grammy Awards.
A Holocaust survivor, Rubin was just 15 years old when Allied forces freed him from a Nazi concentration camp, and he vowed to pay them back by moving to America and joining the U.S. Army. He made good on that promise. Later, as a POW during the Korean War, he routinely sneaked out of the camp at night, returning with food for his fellow prisoners. Rubin, 86, received a long-overdue Medal of Honor in 2004.
Hamilton was just 13 when a tiger shark swam up to her surfboard off the coast of Kauai and bit off her left arm. Two weeks after she left the hospital, she returned to surfing. Now 25, Hamilton has placed first in at least a half-dozen major surfing event. "One arm might handicap me a little in competition," she concedes,"but I just work with what changes I know I have to make."
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