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Randolph County woman uses ALS diagnosis to help others

RANDOLPH COUNTY, N.C. -- It was more than a career.

Teaching is was brought Mary Luper joy.

“It was incredible. I think I learned more from the kids than they learned from me,” she said.

That’s why it was devastating when Luper’s 20-year teaching career came to an unexpected end.

In 2014, Luper was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) which has been commonly referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.”

ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects the brain and the spinal cord and inhibits the ability to walk, talk and breathe.

“The doctor tells you, ‘You’ve got ALS, you’ve got a two to five year life sentence,’ and you’re like, ‘Whoa,’” Luper said.

Luper’s diagnosis was related to her family history – which is rare considering only about 10 percent of patients have familial ALS.

Luper’s mother and brother passed away from the disease.

She admits it’s hard thinking about the physical impact ALS will have on her body.

“You don’t know from minute to minute, am I going to lose my hands, am I going to lose my ability to breathe or speak? I know I will. When is it going to happen, I have no idea,” she said.

However, she doesn’t dwell on those things.

“I don’t want to sit around and have a pity party and I need to still have a purpose in life."

For the third year, Luper is getting ready for the Greensboro Walk to Defeat ALS.

It’s a major event for raising money and spreading awareness through the ALS Association.

Luper has also been an advocate for ALS families at Capitol Hill meeting with legislative leaders to spread awareness regarding adequate medical coverage.

“I always wear my ‘I’ve got ALS’ button and get out there and meet as many people as I can, raise as much money as I can, awareness, that’s what I’m going to do,” Luper said.

The Greensboro Walk to Defeat ALS is Saturday, May 6, at 10 a.m. at Center City Park.

The Winston-Salem Walk to Defeat ALS is Saturday, May 13, at 10 a.m. at BB&T Field.

For information on how you can get involved visit alsnc.org.