Seabiscuit, the rags-to-riches Thoroughbred hero of the 1930s, and Laura Hillenbrand, the author who wrote the best-selling book detailing the life of the horse and his connections, were featured Wednesday on ABC's "Good Morning America" program.
The television segment detailed how Seabiscuit went from being a stubby-legged horse with knock knees, a gnarled tail and a fiery temperament to a winning machine who defeated such stalwarts of the turf as Triple Crown winner War Admiral. The program drew a parallel between the horse's ability to overcome negatives with the challenges faced by Hillenbrand, who suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome, when writing "Seabiscuit
"The author was so weakened by chronic fatigue syndrome that writing the book was an exhausting ordeal every day," the ABC report said.
"The world appears to be pitching up and down and spinning to me, and I feel as if I'm pitching up and down and spinning," Hillenbrand told Good Morning America. "And reading and writing makes that a lot worse. A lot of times it was a matter of lying on my back in bed with my eyes closed and a pad in front of me just writing. And I would be writing over the top of what I had written on the last line. But at least it was on paper."
Hillenbrand's childhood love of horses compelled her to research and write "Seabiscuit: An American Legend." The book has been on the best-seller list for 23 weeks and is being made into a movie.
"Just as he became a symbol of hope for a nation struggling through the Great Depression, Seabiscuit also became a gift to Hillenbrand as she struggled with a debilitating disease," the report said.
"The only time I'm not aware of my physical suffering is when I'm writing," Hillenbrand said. "And I get lost in this book and lost in these people for four years while I was working on it."
"There was this unmistakable feeling of their presence around me, and it was the sweetest thing," Hillenbrand said of her emotional tie to Seabiscuit and his owner, trainer, and jockey when her editor informed her the book had reached No. 1 on the best-seller list.
Hillenbrand was a normal, active person whose hobbies included swimming and horseback riding before she became ill.
"At first I thought it was food poisoning, but it just didn't go away. It took a couple of months for me to start thinking, 'This is really bad. This is not going away. And my doctors aren't getting this,'" Hillenbrand said.
The head of infectious disease at John's Hopkins Hospital finally diagnosed Hillenbrand's illness as chronic fatigue syndrome.
"One of the things you do try to do for your dignity's sake is look as well as you can," Hillenbrand said. "The word 'fatigue' doesn't come close to describing the kind of exhaustion you experience with this illness. I can't sit up, I can't stand up, I can't walk, I can't talk, I can't lift my hands, and breathing is actually difficult. That's how exhausted you get with this illness, and it's relentless."