Before she could finish qualifying for the Olympics, however, she developed spinal meningitis, which the doctors said would probably paralyze her for life. It didn't.
Then, she had two (count 'em -- two!) bouts of cancer. But she survived both sets of treatment.
And at twenty-eight years of age, having beaten every challenge life threw her, O'Neil climbed into the seat of a hydrogen peroxide powered rocket dragster and went more than 512 miles per hour. The only reason she didn't break the men's speed record -- and the speed of light -- was that the decision makers wouldn't let her try. They felt it would be "degrading" for a woman to hold the "man's" record.
Lightning fast cars weren't O'Neil's only fun, though. In fact, through the years, she's hung on sixth floor window ledges, nearly drowned in a submerged plane body, and been set on fire on multiple occasions. And once she was paid to fall 105 feet for an especially exciting shot. Who would call this a good time? An in-your-face woman so bored with being a stay-at-home wife and mommy, she learned the art of performing stunts, that's who. Before she was done, O'Neil had been filmed risking her life for a whole raft of television shows, including "Quincy," "The Bionic Woman" and "Baretta," and such movies as "Smokey and the Bandit," "The Blues Brothers" and "Airport '77." One way or another, an in-your-face woman will get noticed.