March 26th…Purple Day

A few months ago I wrote a blog post in acknowledgment of the fact that it was Epilepsy Awareness Month. I thought it was only fitting to use the opportunity to reveal that I am an epileptic myself. This post is a long overdue follow up.

The first thing I’d like to do is acknowledge the support I received due to writing that post. Family, friends, colleagues and complete strangers all reached out with very kind words of support and encouragement, a reaction that ultimately led to something I had not expected (more on that later).  It would be remiss of me to mention the support I received without apologizing to a few people. A few friends felt wronged, and rightly so, that I had not actually told them I was epileptic. I told a few friends and assumed that that would be enough, that that would make it common knowledge. I was wrong to assume so and that assumption hurt a few people and for that I am sorry.  Inspite of this there wasn’t a single friend who held a grudge, I was still embraced and for that I am thankful.

Two things struck me about the reaction people had to my story : the number of people in my life who unbeknownst to me were epileptic or had epileptic family members and the number of complete strangers who found comfort in being able to relate to all I had to say. Few things can compare to the experience of reading those messages from people who did not even know me calling me brave or saying how much it helped them seeing someone else talk about these things they themselves deal with.  That blog post ultimately provided comfort for both myself as well as other people who are epileptic or have epileptic relatives or friends by giving us a sense of community through shared experiences. I was surprised on Sunday to receive a message from someone I don’t even know inquiring if I am the “same Christopher France”  who wrote about epilepsy. The message was from a woman whose son is an epileptic. She wanted advice from someone who was epileptic and that 5 month old post led her to me. Now I’m no expert but anyone who suffers from a chronic disease can tell you hearing the experiences of people who can relate to your situation is a one of the  best salves for your peace of mind.

The post inspired a young lady I know to reach out to me informing me that she had a sibling who was an epileptic and she’d like to help out if I had anything planned in observance of Epilepsy Awareness Month. I hadn’t given it serious thought but what she said made me realize that I had been given a platform to do something important and this ultimately led to me collaborating with the University of Guyana Medical Students’ Association to host an Epilepsy Awareness Walk and Mural Painting. Our contingent proudly marched through the streets commanding attention with their chants and sharing literature on Epilepsy.  Being able to be a part of that experience moved me and remains on my list of one of few things I will be proud of for a very long time. I am also incredibly thankful as that exercise would not have been possible without the support of a few very committed and hardworking friends. The aforementioned UGMSA along with the University of Guyana Students’ Society and the recently formed Epilepsy Foundation of Guyana were also key in making that walk a reality.

Do not mistake this for hubris, I feel that that blog post and the ripple effect it had was something very special to both myself and a lot of other people and I am very proud of that. Today (March 26th) is Purple Day, a day set aside for Epilepsy Awareness and as in that spirit I’d like to include a few links that those who have Epilepsy or know someone who has it may find useful :

* What is Epilepsy?

* Living with Epilepsy

* First Aid Tips

My name as Christopher Martin France and I am a 21 year old Medical Student who as of March 2nd has been having epileptic seizures for one year.Being epileptic means I have epilepsy, however, I have decided that I don’t suffer from epilepsy.  I refuse to be a prisoner to a disease and with medication and vigilance I am not. I have been able to lead a relatively normal life and I intend to keep it that way.

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