Georgia coach's cancer battle inspires students, community

After 34 years on the hardwoods at The Heritage School, middle school girls' basketball coach, Simone DuPree has become a fixture at the Newnan, Georgia, private school.

Kristin Skelly, Heritage's Head of School, says she cannot imagine the school without DuPree.

"She is almost everybody's mom," Skelly says.  "But, she's also, everybody's friend, too,"

Health teacher and coach Simone Dupree's cancer battle inspired her Newnan, Georgia, school and community. (FOX 5 Atlanta)

DuPree, a health teacher at the school, is known for speaking her mind, on the court and in her classroom.

"I am like, 'Girls, you've got to listen to your body; if something is not right, you've got to take care of yourself,'" DuPree says.

It's a lesson DuPree learned back in 2015.

"I  just put my head down and just started crying.”

— Coach Simone DuPree, on being given a "50/50" chance of survival by her oncologist

"I was having these symptoms, where I was bleeding a lot," she says.

DuPree, 52 at the time, and on the tail end of menopause, had been feeling really tired and bloated.

When she went to the doctor, she says, he told her the bleeding was likely due to the menopause, and he urged her to give it some time.

Three months later, she says, she was still bleeding heavily.

Health teacher and coach Simone Dupree's cancer battle inspired her Newnan, Georgia, school and community.

"It was continuous, it was continuous, every day," she says.  "I don't know.  Something just hit me, and I said, 'I've got to see someone who is going to listen to me.'"

DuPree went back to her doctor, and demanded to see someone.

After an examine, the doctor ordered a biopsy.

"I know a lot of the younger kids were very scared, they thought I was going to die. I wanted to make sure they knew I was not going to die. I'm Coach DuPree! I'm not going to die!"

— Simone DuPree on her diagnosis with stage 3 endometrial cancer

DuPree was diagnosed with early stage endometrial cancer, also known as uterine cancer, which typically begins in the lining of the uterus.

DuPree underwent a hysterectomy, or surgical removal of her uterus.

Her surgeon also removed some nearby lymph node for testing, to make sure the cancer hadn't spread beyond her uterus.

She expected the all-clear.

Health teacher and coach Simone Dupree's cancer battle inspired her Newnan, Georgia, school and community.

Her now-wife and best friends had even planned a party to celebrate her “all-clear.”

Instead, her oncologist had bad news.

"It was now stage 3, instead of stage 1," DuPree says.  "I asked him what was my survival percentage, and he just said. '50-50.’ I just put my head down and just started crying.”

DuPree says she has never won a coin toss in all of her years of coaching.

So, being told she had a 50/50 chance of making it stunned her.

“I was with my future wife at that time, and she said, "We've got this."

Dupree broke the news to Skelly, her Head of School.

"I told her I had a 50/50 chance of living," DuPree says.  "She said, 'What!  That's not good enough!'"

Skelly encouraged DuPree to go to Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Newnan.

That is where she began 3 rounds of chemo, then radiation, and then 3 more rounds of chemo.

Health teacher and coach Simone Dupree's cancer battle inspired her Newnan, Georgia, school and community.

She would lose her hair to the chemo, grow it back, and then lose it again.

To help her students understand what was happening, DuPree created a Facebook page to document her treatment.

"I know a lot of the younger kids were very scared, they thought I was going to die," she says.  "I wanted to make sure they knew I was not going to die. I'm Coach DuPree! I'm not going to die!"

Skelly says the Facebook page opened the door for the school community to follow and support DuPree's cancer journey.

Heritage School girls' basketball coach Simone DuPree shared her 2015 cancer journey with her school and community.

"I think she probably expected prayers and well wishes," Skelly says.  "I don't think she had any idea about what was going to happen."

When the page launched, the flood gates opened, and the support poured in.

Soon, the school and the larger community were joining the "Kick it Coach," campaign.

"Little kids, big kids, adults, grandparents, people in the community I didn't know," DuPree says.  "It's humbling."

"I think that is what gave her so much strength," Skelly says.

Heritage School Head of School Kristin Skelly encouraged DuPree to visit Cancer Treatment Centers of American in Newnan, where DuPree sought treatment.

Next summer, Simone DuPree, now 57, will reach her 5-year milestone, with no evidence of cancer.

"Every time I go through my Facebook memories, it pops us this time of year, and it always brings it back," she says.

Life on the other side of cancer is good -- DuPree is now married, teaching again, and back on her game.

"Watching her coach basketball again, which is something she absolutely loves, is just really nice to see," Skelly says.