In one of Mary Dupree's tote bags are 16 bottles of medicine.
The Tarboro resident takes 14 pills in the morning and another eight at night. She also takes an insulin shot every night and a B12 shot every other Saturday. At night she uses a machine to help her breath normally and get a restful sleep.
And that's not all.
Inside her body is another machine that helps reduce the pain she struggles with daily.
All of the above are methods of treatment for the 12 diseases Dupree's body battles. As dreadful as it may sound, she somehow finds a reason to smile.
"I've been diagnosed with scleroderma, fibromyalgia, irritable bowl syndrome, anxiety vertigo, sleep apnea, Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure, COPD and asthma, B12 deficiency, hyperlipidemia and gastroesophageal reflux" she said. "My medicine bag is full. When I take my pills I say, God I'm taking them. Now you send them where you need them to go, and he does. I put all my trust in God," she said with a smile. "I'm going to keep on fighting as long as I can.
"I have good days and I have bad days. When I have bad days I lay around until the good days come back around. When the good days come, I do as much as I can, because I know that bad days could be just around the corner."
Instead of throwing herself a pity party, Durpree is moving on with her life as much as her body will allow. The diseases became noticeable in 2000. Before then, she said she was a picture of perfect health. She worked for a living and raised two daughters. And then, without warning, Dupree's world was turned upside down on Jan. 17, 2000.
"I didn't know what was wrong," she said. "My body turned hard. I was told that I died. To find out what was wrong with me I had to eat what they called a nuclear egg. It was like egg with a camera in it. It took pictures from the time I started eating until it went down in my stomach. It showed everything that what going on in my body. That's when they told me my body was raggedy inside."
It was also when doctors told Dupree she had scleroderma and about five other diseases. From that point on, things began to roll downhill. She said it seemed like every time she made a visit to the doctor, they would diagnose her with another disease. The once healthy Dupree became a regular at the doctor's office and hospital. She was a patient at three of the most prominent hospitals in the United States — Duke University Medical Center in Durham, UNC Health Care in Chapel Hill, and John Hopkins in Baltimore. So far, she has been through 18 surgeries. The most recent was on June 1, when doctors placed a pain stimulator in her body to eliminate chronic pain.
"My doctors said they don't know how I'm still walking around, telling her 'You are a sick woman'," she said, adding, 'But your face does not show how sick you are. You are always smiling.' That's what I do. I can't help it. Although I'm sick, I still have a reason to smile because I'm still alive."
Perhaps Durpree's smile is one method of her fighting her diseases. She also abides by her doctor's orders and educates herself on each one of the diseases. She keeps records in a notebook including X-rays, charts, blood work and any pertinent documents to which she has access. So far, she has filled two large 2-ring binders and started a third one on Monday. Another reason for keeping the records is for her daughters, Erica Dupree and Laronda Bryant.
"I want them to have it just in case they or their children may have some of the symptoms of these diseases," she said. "Then, they can be better informed."
Dupree's daughters and her niece, Jada Battle, 9, are three reasons she keeps fighting for her health. Erica 23, is in nursing school while, Laronda 20, is attending Edgecombe Community College. Both are living at home with their mother.
All of my family has been supportive of me throughout my ordeal," Durpree said. "But it is Erica, Laronda and Jada who really keep me going. When they tell me how much they love me, it makes me want to fight even harder. I'm going to enjoy every day of my life as much as I can."
In one of Mary Dupree's tote bags are 16 bottles of medicine.
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