1 in 26

1 in 26

The story of a student-athlete living with epilepsy
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Six weeks into my freshman year of college I had my first seizure. The mixture of my late night cram session and early morning practice was not a good combination. I remember waking up and brushing my teeth, but that’s it. I awoke to EMTs, Public Safety and my RA all standing over me.

They took me to a hospital near my school, where doctors diagnosed me as an exhausted college student. A few weeks later I came home for Thanksgiving break, and it happened again. This time, my mom was there, and she saw me seize. Once again I woke up to a panicked room filled with EMT's. They rushed me to the hospital and admitted me overnight, where doctors ran every test in the book. The next afternoon a neurologist walked into my room and told me I had epilepsy. I could see the terror spread across my family's faces and tension filled the room, but I only had one question: "would I be able to play softball?" He told me yes, prescribed me some medicine, and we all went on our merry way. I thought taking the medicine would be the end of seizures. The idea that this would become a lifelong battle never crossed my mind.

After the break, I went back to school and remained seizure free for a short period. However, it wasn’t long enough to stay comfortable. My seizures came in spurts; one summer I had six, and during finals I had two within five hours. Each seizure brought with it new injuries. One morning I was home alone, and I fell out of my bed and hit my head on my nightstand; I awoke covered in blood. During the first year and a half, I sustained several concussions and chipped teeth. I even had one while running on the treadmill and broke a few fingers. Doctors told me to avoid stressful situations and lack of sleep; obviously, they hadn’t been to college recently. Family members questioned if I should still play softball or suggested I take time off, but I wanted to stay. I worked so hard to play Division I softball, and I was attending a great academic school. I had pushed through ACL reconstruction in the middle of my recruiting process and taken hundreds of SAT practice tests; I couldn't fathom the idea of leaving school or quitting the sport I love. Still, I spent every day wondering when the next seizure would strike.

As student-athletes, we pride ourselves on being both physically and mentally tough. There is a stigma about emotion, and how showing it makes us weak. Because of this I never really coped with my diagnosis. In fact, I ignored it completely. I persevered through every seizure; still practicing on days I had them. Nevertheless, many coaches, teammates, and friends acted differently around me. My first college coach told me I was no longer worth the investment of his time. I had friends stop inviting me places because I wasn't allowed to drink. It was these sorts of reactions that made me feel like I couldn't be honest. I hid multiple seizures from my teammates and coaching staff out of fear of repercussions.

I believe that ignorance is partially to blame for this situation. Even though 1 in 26 Americans (approximately three million people) have epilepsy, it just isn't talked about very often. People are uneducated about this condition. I was heartbroken when roommates bailed, and teammates became distant. However, there will always be friends who stand by you! These people are kind and caring, and my advice to anyone (healthy or not) would be to hold onto them tight because they are true friends. Friends who stand by you through adversity are a real blessing.

After over 40 grand mal seizures in 16 months, I was fortunate enough to start working with an excellent neurologist who was able to get my seizures under control. It took countless EEG's and brain MRI's, but as of now I consider myself incredibly lucky. I haven't had a grand mal seizure in over a year (my last one was April 23rd, 2015 to be exact). There are times where I wish I never had epilepsy. I still have occasional petite mal seizures, so I am not allowed to drive. It may seem trivial, but I miss the independence. Additionally, the various medicines that keep me healthy can be overwhelming; they have side effects ranging from depression to nausea and fogginess. My epilepsy will affect the decisions I make in the future about where to live and when to start a family. At times, I feel like I'm hanging on by a thread. For the longest time, I thought I had to conceal my emotions, to keep my fears hidden away. However, I finally understand that it's human nature to struggle. It is not something you have to hide.

In the end, I truly am grateful for what my disease has taught me. I learned how to push through the darkest of times. I play college softball, make the dean's list, participate in clubs, and have had killer internship experiences all while battling epilepsy. Because lack of sleep is a huge trigger for my seizures, I have to make responsible choices. I cannot wait until the last minute to write a paper or go out all night partying. When I entered college, I was a naïve freshman who didn’t know how to balance her time; epilepsy taught me how to do that. Most importantly, I learned how to stand up for myself, and that no one ever has the right to question my value. Occasionally, I do wonder if I could have developed more as an athlete if I never had epilepsy, and that is probably the case. However, my softball career will end next year, and the lessons I have learned will last a lifetime.

To learn more about epilepsy please click here:

http://www.epilepsy.com/learn/epilepsy-101/what-ep...

http://athletesvsepilepsy.com/

Cover Image Credit: Maggie Goldberg

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When You Give A Girl A Dad

You give her everything
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They say that any male can be a father, but it takes a special person to be a dad. That dads are just the people that created the child, so to speak, but rather, dads raise their children to be the best they can be. Further, when you give a little girl a dad, you give her much more than a father; you give her the world in one man.


When you give a girl a dad, you give her a rock.

Life is tough, and life is constantly changing directions and route. In a world that's never not moving, a girl needs something stable. She needs something that won't let her be alone; someone that's going to be there when life is going great, and someone who is going to be there for her when life is everything but ideal. Dads don't give up on this daughters, they never will.


When you give a girl a dad, you give her a role model.

If we never had someone to look up to, we would never have someone to strive to be. When you give a little girl someone to look up to, you give her someone to be. We copy their mannerisms, we copy their habits, and we copy their work ethic. Little girls need someone to show them the world, so that they can create their own.


When you give a girl a dad, you give her the first boy she will ever love.

And I'm not really sure someone will ever be better than him either. He's the first guy to take your heart, and every person you love after him is just a comparison to his endless, unmatchable love. He shows you your worth, and he shows you what your should be treated like: a princess.


When you give a girl a dad, you give her someone to make proud.

After every softball game, soccer tournament, cheerleading competition, etc., you can find every little girl looking up to their dads for their approval. Later in life, they look to their dad with their grades, internships, and little accomplishments. Dads are the reason we try so hard to be the best we can be. Dads raised us to be the very best at whatever we chose to do, and they were there to support you through everything. They are the hardest critics, but they are always your biggest fans.


When you give a girl a dad, you give her a credit card.

It's completely true. Dads are the reason we have the things we have, thank the Lord. He's the best to shop with too, since he usually remains outside the store the entire time till he is summoned in to forge the bill. All seriousness, they always give their little girls more than they give themselves, and that's something we love so much about you.


When you give a girl a dad, you give her a shoulder to cry on.

When you fell down and cut yourself, your mom looked at you and told you to suck it up. But your dad, on the other hand, got down on the ground with you, and he let you cry. Then later on, when you made a mistake, or broke up with a boy, or just got sad, he was there to dry your tears and tell you everything was going to be okay, especially when you thought the world was crashing down. He will always be there to tell you everything is going to be okay, even when they don't know if everything is going to be okay. That's his job.


When you give a girl a dad, you give her a lifelong best friend.

My dad was my first best friend, and he will be my last. He's stood by me when times got tough, he carried me when I just couldn't do it anymore, and he yelled at me when I deserved it; but the one thing he has never done was give up on me. He will always be the first person I tell good news to, and the last person I ever want to disappoint. He's everything I could ever want in a best friend and more.


Dads are something out of a fairytale. They are your prince charming, your knight in shinny amour, and your fairy godfather. Dads are the reasons we are the people we are today; something that a million "thank you"' will never be enough for.

Cover Image Credit: tristen duhon

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For College Athletes, A Degree Is Not As Valuable As A Paycheck

It's time for the NCAA to start owning up to its true nature.

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I was watching TV the other day, being especially unproductive when an NCAA commercial came on that got under my skin. Jerry Rice, Hall of Fame NFL wide receiver is talking while a montage of historically great professional sports moments juxtaposed with scenes of aspiring college athletes plays in the background. Rice states that only two percent of the 480,000 American college athletes will go pro in their sport, meaning that over 470,000 will not get a shoe contract, sign autographs, fly in private jets, have fan clubs, or be inducted into any Halls of Fame.

Instead, he reassures us, they will receive something much more valuable. While not saying it explicitly, the NCAA is implying that a college degree is more valuable than anything a college athlete will experience professionally. Come on man.

You're telling me that graduating with a 2.5 GPA with a BA in sociology is just as valuable as a million dollar shoe deal or a rookie signing bonus? When you show me the degree that can get you $400,000 right out of college then I'll believe you. While in college, their sport is literally their job. Between morning workouts, afternoon workouts, eating enough food, and perfecting their on-the-field craft in order to bring in more money for the organization enslaving them, they have hardly the time to make anything other than barely passing grades in a major that will mean nothing after graduation compared to even the smallest rookie deal.

Obviously there are exceptions but on the whole, these kids don't care about a degree and neither should we. We're lying to ourselves if we think the NCAA is anything other than a money making organization, let alone one that cares the slightest about the education of its athletes. The sport is their education. I'm not saying these kids aren't smart. In fact, they're geniuses, just in no way that our society values which is odd considering the revenue that college and professional sports rake in. College football is making $7.3 billion over the next 12 years from ESPN alone and almost everyone at their mercy clearly sees the farce for what it is.

Mack Brown, former Texas football coach and current television analyst stated that "When you hear presidents and athletic directors talk about character and academics and integrity, none of that really matters. The truth is, nobody has ever been fired for those things. They get fired for losing."

It's not that the money or the organization itself is inherently bad, just that some honesty wouldn't hurt. Elite athletes don't care about school. Schools hardly even about school. They care about money and winning and that's okay if we own up to it.

These athletes' brains haven't developed to be inquisitive about science or technology or to compose a piece of music or a novel that can elicit the deepest of emotions. Instead they're geniuses at fooling a defender into thinking they're going one way, only to stop on a dime and cut back with lightning quickness, leaving the defender in the dust, or throwing a ball just over the outstretched reach of another elite athlete, and give it the perfect trajectory to land in a hoop 18 inches in diameter. Let a math major try to figure out the curve of that parabola.

Listen, I love sports with a burning passion which is why I am taking the time to write this article in the first place, but I hate blind hypocrisy even more. Just pay them like the professionals they are or let that "priceless" degree somehow reflect their life's work.

We have to start by acknowledging and compensating these kids in some way that is comparable to the popularity they've brought the organization because you're right Jerry Rice, only two percent will make it, meaning that 98 percent will have wasted the first quarter of their lives on something that gave them nothing in return but a pat on the back.

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