I was 18 and in my first year of university when I had my first confirmed seizure. It took two years with several more tonic clonic and absence seizures before I accepted and understood that I have epilepsy. Some times it took more than an hour to read a single page of a text book because absence seizures kept interfering. It was annoying, frustrating, and exhausting but I couldn't admit defeat and quit university. My stubbornness (and a healthy dose of fear of my mother's reaction!) kept me from doing that. My greatest accomplishment (thus far) is convocating from university with a BA with High Honours.
Acting is one of my passions- and I'm actually good at it! Every time I audition for a production and land a lead role I think "Did you really believe you could hold me down, Epilepsy?"
Modelling is a big part of my life. Photo shoots can sometimes be tricky though because absence seizures cause my eyes to roll and make it hard for a photographer to grab a shot when my eyes are fully open. Fortunately, technology these days can rectify that problem after the fact for the finished product, yet sometimes when a shoot runs overtime it is physically and mentally draining. But I love my job anyway!!!
When I compete in pageants I am open about my epilepsy. I want to show there is no shame in having epilepsy. I want kids to see that they can succeed academically, professionally, and socially in spite of epilepsy. And now that I am Ms. Canada 2015/16 I have a stage from which I can spread hope to people around the world who have epilepsy.
I'm not going to cry you a "woe is me" story; when push comes to shove, I know I have a good life. I have a great insurance plan. I live in a country that has a universal health care system. And I have regular visits with both my neurologist and my epileptologist. So from a health care perspective I'm covered, no worries. But I'm certainly not going to lie and say my life is perfect. It is depressing sometimes. I mean that literally- as in clinically depressed not just something that can be expressed by a sad face emoticon. I have struggles.
I hope to inspire others who have epilepsy to persevere. When I wear my Ms. Canada 2015/16 sash and crown I'm a public example that with perseverance and determination epilepsy will never win. And I am showing people who are ignorant about epilepsy that they can take the stigma and burn it. They said I'd never hold a national title, but look at me now! I don't want to say "I told you so" but... actually I do want to say that! When they said I couldn't do it that just added fuel to the pageant fire already burning in my heart! I did all of this even while neural plaques were forming on my brain. Obviously we people with epilepsy are capable of more than some people give us credit for.
When I feel down I listen to two songs: If Today Was Your Last Day (Nickelback) and Through The Fire (Randy Travis). The first says "Each day's a gift and not a given right... Don't take a free ride in your own life." I have one chance at life so I have to make every day matter. The latter song reminds me that when I feel weak or broken, it's not true. Epilepsy will NEVER break me. I WON'T LET IT. I have a strong will, God, and my support system. I can't ask for more!