November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month, and this month Northern Lights Gallery is donating a percentage of our online orders to the Epilepsy Foundation. It is a cause that is close to our hearts: our Gallery Assistant, Tanya, was diagnosed with this neurological condition 17 years ago. I asked her a few questions about her experience to help share her story and continue raising awareness for this condition that affects 65 million people worldwide.
Emily: Hi Tanya! Thank you so much for speaking with me today. To start off, what do you want people to know about epilepsy?
Tanya: I just want to let everyone know that epilepsy is not contagious, and that there are many different forms of the condition, not just one. It is a disability that sometimes requires us to hide our pain, so others may not know we’re struggling.
Emily: When did you first experience a seizure and what happened?
Tanya: I was 25 years old and it just came out of nowhere. I was watching a movie with my kids, and when I got up to go to the kitchen, my kids told me I fell to the floor and I couldn’t talk to them at all.
Emily: That must have been really scary. How long after this were you diagnosed with epilepsy?
Tanya: I spent years fighting with doctors who told me I was just blacking out. After 3 years, I found a doctor that listened to me. I was put on medication and did an in-hospital EEG. I stayed in the hospital for over a week, with a camera and a person in the room watching me at all times. They found that I have epileptic seizures, as well as non-epileptic seizures.
Emily: In 2015, you had brain surgery. Were you nervous?
Tanya: Extremely! My surgeon told me that it was a very dangerous surgery, and that I had a 90% chance of a stroke, or worse.
Emily: What was your surgery experience like? How was the recovery?
Tanya: I actually had two procedures. The first was the deep EEG. They put wires on my brain in order to find the cluster that needed to be taken out. The second procedure happened about 10 days later, when they removed the cluster. I did have a stroke as I was coming out of surgery, so recovery took longer.
Emily: Did the surgery help stop you from having seizures?
Tanya: It has helped. It’s not 100%, but it is better. The only episodes I still have are from the non-epileptic seizures. I’ve learned that my two biggest triggers are heat and stress.
Emily: Do you think that they will find a cure for epilepsy so others don’t have to go through what you went through?
Tanya: I truly hope so. I don’t want anyone to have to go through this. I also hope that they start to teach about epilepsy in first aid. There are so many people who have no clue what to do when someone is having a seizure.
Emily: Thank you so much for sharing all of this! That was a lot of heavy questions. Let’s lighten it up a bit. What have been the positive aspects of your experience with epilepsy?
Tanya: I have learned how to be stronger than I have ever been before. I take each day as it comes, and lean on the motto “this too shall pass” if things get difficult.
Image Caption: To give you a glimpse into Tanya's fun and outgoing personality, here she is at a trick or treating event in Downtown Racine. It's one of her favorite events and she looks forward to it all year. She made her own costume and props!
Thank you again for sharing your story, Tanya! We’re honored to have Tanya on our team, and we are also honored to donate to the Epilepsy Foundation to help further research into treatments for this condition.
For more information on epilepsy, including how you can help, check out the Epilepsy Foundation’s website.
Their mission as stated on their site: “The mission of the Epilepsy Foundation is to lead the fight to overcome the challenges of living with epilepsy and to accelerate therapies to stop seizures, find cures, and save lives.”