Four times a week, McDuffie County resident Elaine Hughes can be seen walking down the sidewalks in Harlem.
Her pace is slow - she walks four miles in 45 minutes - but steady.
''I just want people to know that there is so much pain in this body but I fight so hard to keep going,'' she said.
Hughes, 55, suffers from a crippling condition known as degenerative cervical thoracic lumbar spine disease.
''Basically, my spine is crumbling, making the simplest of tasks difficult,'' she said.
Diagnosed five years ago, the pain she endures makes just getting out of bed a monumental effort. A trip to the grocery store takes hours to recover from. And she can no longer clean her home, so she keeps plastic over her furniture.
But she is determined - determined to keep living and enjoy each day. And she hopes to share her experiences with others. She could have given up years ago, but Hughes refuses to accept her fate without a fight.
''Anything is possible with God and determination, and I just want people to know that,'' she said.
She enjoys the serenity of her home, situated on a wooded lot just inside the McDuffie County line off Georgia Highway 78. She looks forward to her daily walks and the people she has met.
''Harlem has the nicest people,'' Hughes said. ''I enjoy the comfort I receive when I come over here to walk.''
An Army veteran, walking is not her only activity. Hughes tries to keep her mind off her pain by sewing, reading, watching movies and doing light yardwork.
''I planted all this myself,'' she said, pointing to the monkey grass lining the back walkway leading to her home. ''It took me days to recover. But that's life, and somehow God allows me to keep on going.''
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