“Epilepsy strengthened my will to help others like me.”
Alexis was born and raised in Toledo Ohio with her Dad, Brett and her step-mom Maria. She has an older brother Brett II and a sister, Kristi who passed away in 2011.
She had her first seizure when her grandmother was holding her at 5 months old. She was immediately rushed to the hospital. The doctors performed both a CT Scan and MRI and both were normal. But, the results of her EEG showed she had epilepsy. She has generalized tonic-clonics with no other seizure types including, warnings or “aura’s.”
Alexis wasn’t allowed to do a lot of the same activities as others kids. Her parents were cautious of everything. She wasn’t allowed to walk around alone, ride her bike very far away or go to sleep overs and parties. Unlike her siblings, Alexis was sheltered because she had something they didn’t – epilepsy. She found things to do on her own and close to home. She loved listening to music and watching her favorite cartoons; Rugrats, Care Bears and Scooby Doo.
While Alexis never had a seizure at school, she still endured bullying at the hands of her classmates. Starting in the third grade her peers called her names including fat and ugly. They insinuated she was insane and even suicidal. She kept asking her parents to allow her to switch schools, but wasn’t allowed to. By the time she got to high school, everyone had grown up enough so the bullying stopped.
Alexis was in regular classes throughout her school years. By high school her studies became easier and she became more focused and determined. She wanted to make sure her grades were good enough to get into college. She did well in Science, History and English.
She struggled in Math, especially geometry. She passed all of her classes and was supposed to graduate in 2012, but didn’t. Ohio has a state mandated test (OGT) that must be passed in order to graduate. Alexis failed in one area – Science. It’s contradictory that she excelled in Science class, but couldn’t pass that part of the test. She left school without a diploma. She eventually received her diploma in 2014 through an adult education program in North Carolina.
She’s faced many of the stigma’s associated with epilepsy. Alexis has been told epilepsy is not a serious condition. Epilepsy should never be considered a disability because all seizures can be controlled. She’s been accused of faking it. Her response is, “you can’t fake it if you have it. You can’t fake an abnormal EEG.” She remembers being scared of having a seizure as a child because she was certain she would swallow her tongue.
Her having epilepsy has been met with many discussions downplaying its seriousness using comparisons to other illness or conditions, mainly cancer. She extends a call to action for epilepsy to be treated the same as any other illness or condition. “Epilepsy is serious and we can die from it just like a cancer patient. People with seizures need as much love as those with cancer or other illnesses. Show compassion as many of us can’t work, drive or live.”
Alexis says epilepsy has taught her to appreciate every day she’s given, good or bad. She’s learned not to be so quick to judge someone based on looks, size, weight, race, religion or anything else. She admits she’s not perfect and sometimes slips up, but epilepsy helps her with this.
Now she turns inward before passing judgment. She knows how it hurts when people judge her because of a condition that is out of her control. She keeps telling herself and others that “you can’t judge a book by its cover because you never know what someone is going through.”
To those who don’t have epilepsy Alexis wants you to know that, “It’s not something to be scared of, but it’s still serious and there are struggles that we endure living with it.”
To those of us living with epilepsy she says, “keep fighting and never give up. You get a brand new day every day you wake up. Life hasn’t given up on you so don’t give up on it.”
Alexis doesn’t allow epilepsy to define her and has goals set for the future. She wants to graduate from college with a business degree. Afterwards, she plans to open her own nationwide photography business. With her positive outlook, determination and creativity, there is no doubt we will see an award winning photograph with her name on it.
Thank you Alexis for sharing your story… You are an Epilepsy Warrior and it’s an honor to put you in the Purple Friend Spotlight! Keep shining!
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