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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20 Signs You Were A High School Cheerleader

You got really tired of hearing, "Point your toes."
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Cheerleading is something you'll never forget. It takes hard work, dedication, and comes with its ups and downs. Here are some statements that every cheerleader, past and present, know to be true.

1. You always had bobby pins with you.

2. Fear shot through you if you couldn't find your spankees right away and thought you left them at home.

3. You accumulated about 90 new pairs of tennis shoes...

4. ...and about 90 new bows, bags, socks, and warm ups.

5. When you hear certain songs from old cheer dance mixes it either ruins your day or brings back happy memories.

6. And chances are, you still remember every move to those dances.

7. Sometimes you catch yourself standing with your hands on your hips.

8. You know the phrase, "One more time, ladies" all too well.

9. The hospitality rooms were always one of the biggest perks of going to tournaments (at least for me).

10. You got really tired of hearing, "Point your toes."

SEE ALSO: How The Term 'Cheerlebrity' Destroyed Our Sport

11. If you left the gym at half-time to go get something, you better be back by the time the boys run back out.

12. You knew how awkward it could be on the bus rides home after the boys lost.

13. But you also knew how fun it could be if they won.

14. Figuring out line-up was extremely important – especially if one of your members was gone.

15. New uniforms were so exciting; minus the fact that they cost a fortune.

16. You know there was nothing worse than when you called out an offense cheer but halfway through, you had to switch to the defense version because someone turned over the ball.

17. You still know the school fight song by heart and every move that goes with it.

SEE ALSO: Signs You Suffer From Post-Cheerleading Depression

18. UCA Cheer Camp cheers and chants still haunt you to this day.

19. You know the difference between a clasp and a clap. Yes, they're different.

20. There's always a part of you that will miss cheering and it will always have a place in your heart.

Cover Image Credit: Doug Pool / Facebook

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Tiger Woods Looks To Eclipse Remarkable Comeback With A Win This Weekend

In the final event of the FedEx Cup, the Tour Championship, Woods could complete one of the greatest comebacks in sports history with a win

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Even though I may be over 4000 miles away and five hours ahead of schedule, the fanatic fan that I am for Tiger Woods has not died down one bit. Entering the Tour Championship, the final event of the FedEx Cup and essentially the Superbowl of professional golf, Woods has a chance of eclipsing one of the greatest comebacks ever with a win this Sunday.

Woods, who hasn't played in this event since 2013 is still in search of a coveted first win in his comeback tour from injury. With a win here, on arguably one of the toughest golf courses in the world and against the top 30 players on the PGA tour, the legacy of Tiger Woods will forever be cemented in golf lure.

So yes, as I am in London studying for the fall term as an abroad student, my heart and soul are still intertwined with one of America's greatest sports icons. To demonstrate my commitment as a fan, I will share a little tale with how I have been able to keep up with Woods' play. On Thursday, the first day of competition, I strategically planned my day around when Tiger would tee off. Making sure to have computer access, I was able to watch his first three holes of the round. To say the least, I was mildly unimpressed. Starting off with a bogey and finding himself in the bottom half of the field, I figured I was only hurting Woods' performance by watching. I backed off, shut the computer down and went out for a meal.

I made a conservative effort to not stay glued to my phone for updates, feeling that if I let Tiger do what Tiger does best, then, sure enough, he would come around. I was right. Woods was able to turn around his bad start and with three holes left in his round he was tied for 2nd place and only two shots back. I had to see him finish out, I knew the good mojo was there.

I quickly made my way back to my dorm and was able to log onto a live feed just in time for Woods to tee off on the final hole of the day, a par 5. Sure enough, Tiger landed a beautiful shot on the green in 2, with a chance for eagle and a tie for the lead. It was all but too good to be true until it wasn't. With 30 feet to the hole, Tiger lined up his putt and gracefully took a tap at it as the world, and myself from the United Kingdom, watched him knock it into the hole and take a share of the lead entering the second day of competition.

The crowd erupted nearly as loud as I had from my dorm room. The energy was palpable and with a signature fist pump from our man, he took a gigantic step in the right direction towards capping off this unfathomable comeback.

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