Epilepsy is still one of those conditions that we are still trying to understand and control. It is still a mystery to doctors and researchers, especially when people abruptly develop seizures.
Francesca Turauskis’ life changed when she had her first seizure.
“I had my first tonic-clonic (those full-blown ones the media always portrays) about seven years ago, when I was 21. It was my last year of university. As a young woman with no history, among the many questions the doctors asked were the obligatory “have you been drinking?” and “have you been doing drugs?” (The answer was no. In rather millennial fashion, I was about to cook risotto for my friends.) I do understand why the doctors have to ask, but it felt so accusatory at the time. The doctors put it down to a one-off. A year later, it was a two-off. I was told to put it from my mind, but nearly four years after that first time, my seizures became so frequent I was finally diagnosed.”
To Francesca, being diagnoses was the best thing that could happen to her. Now that she is on medication, that controls her seizures, she can live an independent life. 7 years after her first seizure and 3 years after being diagnosed, Francesca completed a solo hike along the Camino De Santiago, in Spain. She walked over 490 miles, by herself.
“My epilepsy changed the way I went about it. I could not be as complacent and off-grid as I would have liked. I had the extra worry of getting enough medication to last the full length of my trip. Even without the seizures, the price of travel insurance was increased. I have to inform flight attendants whenever I get on a plane by myself and I had a little tag on my bag shouting “I have epilepsy” (the Spanish is tengo epilepsia) to anyone who is observant enough. I was told it made me look like Paddington Bear – “Please look after this Fran.”
Francesca met people from all over the world during her journey that she shared her story with. Many knew very little about her diagnosis. She was met with reactions of concern and admiration which a loud her to educate others and gave her the strength to keep moving forward.
“The further I walked and the more I talked, the stronger I became and the more people began to see what a person with epilepsy can do. There are 52% of us in the UK who are living seizure free. For those that aren’t, your panic is the last thing they need.”
Francesca knows she could have a seizure at any moment, but living in fear is not a healthy way to live, “so why not walk across Spain in the meantime?” Francesca says.