- By Chickasaw Nation Media
Mary Lu Dolce is a travel nurse with a lifestyle of conscientious eating, exercise, and perseverance. She also has a deep love for animals, whether rescuing strays or training horses for barrel racing.
A few years ago, she rescued a cat that was injured by a car and sustained a bite from the stray on her finger. The bite gave her osteomyelitis, an infection of the bone, which led to the amputation of her finger. When she was rescuing a stray dog, she sustained serious injuries to her chin that also required surgery. Additionally, Dolce struggles with lupus, an autoimmune disease that comes with various health issues.
Despite all these challenges, she continues to work hard and perseveres.
“As a nurse, I see all kinds of patients with disorders and diseases, and I always think to myself that if only we as people took care of ourselves in our younger years, exercising and eating well, we would have less of a struggle with health issues in our old age,” she said.
Dolce, a Chickasaw citizen, has certainly taken her lifestyle into her own hands and is an exemplar of health. She has always eaten a healthy diet but does not advocate for weight loss diets.
“Diets are made to be broken,” she said, “Eating healthy is a lifestyle."
Her routine consists of weightlifting, running, cardio workouts and eating every two to three hours.
“I don’t believe in calorie restriction. You wind up with deficits. You have to appreciate food for what it is to be healthy,” said Dolce.
She also rides horses and trains them for barrel racing to incorporate something she is passionate about into her fitness routine.
She saw an ad for the Miss Health and Fitness 2023 competition and responded to it on a whim. The goal of the competition is to receive likes, shares, comments and followers on a social media account. Then, the followers vote for you and decide who should be eliminated. This is a way of branding yourself and inspiring others to adopt a healthy lifestyle.
“I’m 50 years old, and I was running up against women who are younger than my daughter,” Dolce said.
In the beginning of the competition, the contestants are asked a series of questions to help contribute to their social media branding. One of the questions was, “How does fitness positively influence your life?”
“Fitness is like breathing. It’s not just a positive influence, it exists within me,” Dolce said.
“For a lot of the women, this was more of a beauty contest, like who looks good in a bathing suit. But for me, it wasn’t about that,” she added. “I just wanted to inspire people, because I have a personality that people tend to gravitate towards. Being a nurse, I take health and fitness very seriously. I wanted people to see that even though I was an older woman, struggled with sickness, lost a finger, has lupus, went into kidney failure, spent years in the hospital and nearly died, I overcame this all, and I overcame it by choosing to be healthy.”
Dolce spoke about her Chickasaw upbringing and how she was raised to appreciate life, the earth, good food and the people around you.
She grew up close to her Chickasaw grandfather who was born and raised in Chickasaw Nation treaty territory. Her father is Italian, and her mother is Irish and Chickasaw.
Now living in New York, she still has fond memories of her grandpa and mother teaching her about Chickasaw culture, stomp dancing and a deep reverence for the earth. This reverence, she said, is the guiding light of her life, both on a personal and professional level. She hopes to come back to Oklahoma, visit her family and ride in the 2024 rodeo series.
During the Miss Health and Fitness competition, she made it into the quarter finals and finals. She held first place for a while, before Dr. Snehi Kapur took first place, leaving her in second.
“I was so happy and proud that Dr. Kapur won, because she is a neurologist and is very inspiring. She shows people how to embrace a healthier way to live longer,” Dolce said.
She said she got everything she wanted out of the competition, which is an inspiring winner, and a chance to bring awareness to First American people and a lifestyle of health and fitness that honors the earth.
“The more I have learned as an adult researching my own heritage, the more I understand myself and why I naturally gravitate toward certain things in my life. I think it’s why I live simply and feel connected to animals and nature,” she said.
Her horse’s name is “Chickasaw Rising.”
“I feel in my spirit that Chickasaw is always rising in my soul,” Dolce said.
Dolce has been pouring her passion for her Chickasaw culture into her horseback riding lessons that she offers to students who learn to connect to the land and their spirit through nature.
More Stories Like ThisMarch 2nd is World Teen Mental Wellness Day
New Native American Health Alliance to Address Physician Shortages in Tribal Communities
Give Kids A Smile Starts with Infants and Toddlers
Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby Shares Tribe’s Health Care Transformation with Harvard Audience
Tribal Organizations Get $55 Million for Ambulatory Care