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Life With Epilepcy

“Can you tell me who the president is? What is the date today?” the paramedic asked me with a wide-eyed expression of concern. As I struggled to remember these facts, and even struggled to remember my own name, I felt my eyes fill with tears of fear and confusion. Pain surging through my body, scary thoughts running rampant through my aching head, I began to sob. Unable to settle these crazy thoughts, let alone breathe, panic began to take over. This was the beginning of the hardest battle I have ever fought.

As I sat the in the stiff, uncaring bed staring at the hospital’s boring white walls, listening to the faint sounds of unfamiliar names being called overhead, I became overcome with emotion. Could this really be it? Am I going to die? Thoughts ran through my head like never before. My world had halted and all my dreams, my hopes for the future hung precariously in the balance. Two days before this I had suffered horribly excruciating, back-to-back Grand Mal seizures, lasting more than twenty minutes each. The doctor sat me down, held my hand, and told me “The source of these seizures could very likely be a tumor in your brain….” His words faded out and I immediately felt my body go numb. A brain tumor? Three days after my eighteenth birthday, a month before my high school graduation and a week before prom, I felt as if I was in the prime of my life. How could this happen? I was beyond tears. Up to this point, everything seemed to have whizzed by me like a supersonic jet, now it seemed to have slowed as if it were being filmed in slow motion.Now I was left alone in a cold room to hear the final word on my diagnosis. In need of a break from the heavy emotional stress, my family had left to go home and get some of my belongings. After two days of many different tests, I was totally exhausted, yet unable to sleep, and I knew they felt the same. This had been just as hard for me as it was for them. The pale wide-eyed look on their faces remained fresh in my mind. After witnessing my seizures, my parents and siblings were almost more traumatized as I was. Trying to remain strong for me, but I knew it was just an act; they were feeling just as feeble as me.

At first all I heard was his voice, he and a nurse were having a very animated conversation. My heart begin to pound knowing that whatever words came out of his mouth would forever change my life, and would be imprinted in my mind until my final days. My anticipation was growing with each second.

As he walked into the room, I tried to judge his body language as to whether or not the news he carried was good or bad. He began the conversation by the normal small talk, making me more nervous with every word. As he gave me my diagnosis, I held my breath. Hearing the words “no tumor detected,” I released my breath and smiled. I felt like hugging this man. My happiness was halted immediately by the stern look on his face. “The source of your seizures is an illness called Epilepsy. It is incurable, and from this point on, you will be limited in activities and we have yet to figure out if we can control these seizures…” He began to continue on, but I didn’t hear him. Seizures for the rest of my life? Uncontrolled? Medicine for the rest of my life? “Limited?” I have been active all my life. Swimming, gymnastics, soccer, basketball, all gone? I wanted so bad to swim in college; I was looking forward to it so much. The tears that I had held back flowed down my cheeks like two little rivers of shattered dreams. Almost ready to make that final leap into adulthood, I was jerked back by this diagnosis. I felt very angry, like fate had “jipped” me. For the next two months, I sank into a cocoon of self-pity, letting no one talk me out. Looking forward to college, moving out, experiencing life on my own, spreading my wings… I felt as if all this had been ripped from me. My entire life had been turned upside-down and that was all I could focus on. I saw my epilepsy as a huge brick wall holding me back from everything I had ever wanted.

As time passed the summer began to end, and the medicine I was on kept me seizure-free, I slowly began to gain back privileges that most take for granted. I was finally allowed to take showers without someone standing guard outside the door, waiting to rush in at the slightest sound of distress. I was allowed to be left alone. I was allowed to return to work, to re-join my swim team, and three months to the day after my last seizure, I was allowed to drive. The life I thought I’d lost was slowly trickling back to me.

Epilepsy has made me a much stronger person, and without it, I would not realize the true value of my life. I feel incredibly lucky. My life could very easily have been ripped away from me. I am finally at peace with this thing called “Epilepsy.” There are other epileptics out there who have seizures everyday, sometimes multiple times a day. I will still be on medicine for the rest of my life, and am still not out of the woods quite yet. The process of figuring out if one’s seizures are controlled is a long process, and it could be years before I really know. I have a long road of tests ahead of me, a long road of uncertainty. I am told I could have a seizure at any moment, but I’m ok with that. Epilepsy is now a part of me and I have accepted that. My life has pretty much returned to normal, the only difference being a pill taken three times a day. Free to do anything, with few exceptions, I feel great. Instead of being an obstacle in my way, epilepsy has actually turned out to be a great stepping stool in personal growth. I guess things aren’t always what they seem.

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