Dee Evans is a doctor of pharmacy, but she clearly has earned all kinds of advanced degrees in life.
"When life throws you a curve ball, you just hit at it. I can't live my life in fear, but with intention. We're all on a journey to find out what our purpose is," the vibrant and energetic Evans said in an interview in her sunny home in Stoney Creek.
What a rollercoaster ride with her health. After a bout with mono in the eighth grade, Evans developed an autoimmune disorder with her red blood cells that has since wreaked havoc on her body.
"In ninth grade, they took my spleen out. When that happens, you're at risk for all kinds of infections. I was really good for 10 years, but then I had my first round with Streptococcus Pneumoniae. I was pretty much in septic shock within three hours, on complete life support," remembers Evans. "They gave me less than a 2 percent chance of surviving, but I did."
The next bout came 10 years later. Evans was a working mom, married with a 4-year-old daughter. "They tried to get the circulation back in my legs and it just didn't work. They told me then, they'd have to amputate my legs."
Her life as she knew it, including her marriage, ended pretty quickly after that.
"It's not something you plan for when you're thinking about the story of your life and how it's going to unfold. And it's not what the other people in your life imagined either. So everybody has to figure out what's best for themselves. I'm independent and stubborn, very stubborn," she laughs. "I really think that was a good trait to have because it helped pull me through, along with what I call my 'fr-amily,' I couldn't have done it without my friends and family. I even had my physical therapist throw me on the mats so I could learn how to get myself back up. You have to do the little things like that."
Evans later met a man whom she calls the love of her life.
"We met at a 4th of July party. I was in my wheelchair. He wanted my phone number. We knew each other through friends, but really hadn't known each other at all. I wasn't ready to date at all. About six months later, at a Christmas party, he saw me again, bent down and kissed me. It never seemed to faze him that I didn't have legs. He calls me his 'hero,' I really don't know why," Evans said.
Evans has to be vigilant about warding off future infections, takes antibiotics every day and intense immune therapy infusions every two weeks. She works as a clinical researcher in pharmacy at UNC and volunteers in countless charitable groups in Alamance County. She's even going to dance in this year's "Little Pink Houses of Hope" Gala. She shares her story to encourage others.
"There are good days and bad days, but there are far more good and great days, you just have to take advantage of them. I'm lucky. And I intend to really live and enjoy my life," Evans said.
If you know of a woman here in the Piedmont who inspires you, please let us know! Email us at email@example.com.