epilepsy and me
Jasmine Smith was 17 when she was diagnosed with epilepsy. Here she talks about how the condition has changed her life and about the incredible journey she has been on.
Going back eight years I was a healthy, happy, lucky teenager. At 17 I was training to be a ballet dancer. I had passed my driving test and was out clubbing at weekends.
Butt I started to feel really, really tired. This was a new feeling for me but I thought there's no need to worry. I also started talking nonsense. I was in the car with my mother and started talking about my brother. This was strange as I don't have a brother. It was only later I realised I was having a seizure. I also started passing out.
I went to see my GP and was sent for lots of tests including an MRI scan. This was when I was told I had a brain tumour and that the episodes I was experiencing were epilepsy. I had no idea about epilepsy. I started having generalised tonic clonic seizures which were very scary, not so much for me but for my family and friends.
I went from being someone who was leading a very normal life to being someone with a brain tumour. I had only passed my driving test four months previously but lost my licence because of the seizures. I had really mixed emotions.
My friends were great. They still saw me as Jasmine, not just as a girl with epilepsy. If I had a seizure while I was dancing in the studio, everyone would continue to dance round me so that when I woke up everything was still very normal. I never felt out of place.
Then I discovered contemporary dance and started on a performing arts course. I was still having two or three seizures a week and would often end up in hospital. Two months into the course I was in hospital when I received a letter from my lecturer at uni saying that other students were finding my seizures too distressing.. It was a real kick in the teeth. This was when I was determined that epilepsy should not stop my education. It should not stop you from doing what you want to do.
I tried several different types of work but none of them were suitable because of my seizures. I tried working in a garden centre but couldn't handle sharp tools. I tried decorating but couldn't go up a ladder. I tried working in a canteen but couldn't carry boiling water.
Eventually my consultant decided that surgery could be an option for me and in June 2011 Andrew McEvoy, my brilliant surgeon at Queen Square, operated on me to remove my brain tumour. After the surgery a cyst started growing in place of the tumour so I had to have further surgery to get rid of it.
I then began working at Epilepsy Society as a volunteer. I wanted people with epilepsy to have as much help as I had enjoyed. I was working with people with severe epilepsy and learned about the work that epilepsy specialist nurses do. Suddenly I realised what I wanted to do with my life.
I got a place at uni to train as a nurse.. On placement I was working night shifts and I had my first seizure since my surgery. The tumour had started growing back. The seizure happened at Epilepsy Society. I was in hospital in a coma for a week and was kept sedated.
All went well but after that I took six months off from my nursing course and did a lot of soul searching, asking 'why me?'
I decided to book an 11-day holiday in Croatia on my own. My family thought I was mad but during that holiday I told everyone I met that I had epilepsy. I always dropped epilepsy into the conversation. It was amazing the amount of people I told who knew others with epilepsy.
Much to my family's relief, I got back safely. I haven't had a seizure since and have never had to do a night shift again. I also returned to my uni course.
Six weeks ago I got my nursing degree. Now I am looking to the future. I would not wish epilepsy on anyone. It is not just the seizures. It is the loss of independence. Not being able to have a bath on your own or use curling irons. All the little things that people don't think about.
But epilepsy doesn't have to be the end of everything. I have learned so much about myself through my epilepsy. One minute I was dancing, now I have a whole new career. It makes me want to help anyone who is struggling to come to terms with their diagnosis. I would urge anyone with epilepsy to make sure they have the best life possible