I had my first seizure when I was 17 on the first day of spring break. Light rain followed a slow drizzle down the blurred glass of our kitchen window while I cooked ramen noodles on the stove and started to feel the same things I had had for years leading up to ear-splitting migraines. Fuzzy vision. A weird feeling that all my senses were heightened. And, luckily, an urgent need to lie down before the pain arrived.
But this time it was different. I started to hear a driving rock song that, I would later find out, was just "in my head". I tried to turn off the stereo in our living room, but it was already off. In another stroke of luck, I put down the boiling pot of noodles before I promptly passed out and began my first grand mal seizure draped over, in an even luckier moment, the cushy backside of our living room couch.
I certainly wasn't expecting to have a seizure, but it wasn't a total shock given that my dad experienced dozens of epileptic seizures in his life, mostly in his 20s. My mom had taken care of my dad then and 20 years later saw me have my first seizure.
My second seizure came 4 years later while lying in my dorm room bed. In a moment of particular serendipity, my friend Tom who lived in the adjacent room heard me and ran in to pull me away from the dresser that I had been banging my face against. The third seizure was 10 months later in a laundromat… I fell on a pile of clothes. Eight months later on May 27th, 2010, I had two seizures on the same day, both in the presence of a new coworker who happens to moonlight as an EMT on the weekends.
Two things hit me that day.
The first was a terrible fear that my epilepsy was getting worse and that seizures would become a more frequent and scary part of my life. I've heard plenty of stories of people, including my dad, who have a few seizures in their teens that quickly spiral into seriously debilitating and constant bouts in their twenties and each of my seizures had come with fewer and fewer days in between.
The second thing that crystallized for me on May 27th, 2010, was just how – for lack of a better word – stupid-lucky I've been to have been surrounded by kind souls and cushioned surfaces during each my seizures.
I started running last November as part of a general effort to take better care of myself after my two-seizure day. At first, it was just about the exercise, but I quickly found an amazing group of people that I loved running with. They keep me motivated, accountable, and make the running enjoyable, even as the temperature in Washington, DC flirts with 100 degrees. Since that day, I've run almost 600 miles, dropped 25 pounds, started graduate school, found a job I love, and haven't had another seizure.
I am running the Marine Corps Marathon with the Epilepsy Therapy Project (TEAM ETP) in part because I want to challenge myself to continue to run and keep healthy throughout the brutal summer months, and accomplish something that one year ago I would have never thought possible. More importantly, I want to raise awareness and money for those people who haven't been nearly as lucky as I have, people who need and deserve more recognition for their battle against epilepsy. Thanks, ETP, for having me. Let's go run!