Memories of Summertime are very often vibrant. Now that this wonderful season is coming to a close, I find myself reflecting. Summer is a season filled with lush greenery and flora, warm sands and waves crashing on the shore, and outdoor activities. Bright colors, delightful scents, warm sunlight, and the serenity of a swim in the lake are just some of the wonder that surrounds us. There is a sumptuousness about this time, with everything in bloom, the taste of fresh fruits and vegetables, and the smell of a backyard barbecue. Though the change from Spring to Summer may seem subtle, the refreshment of the season is unforgettable, The burdens of dealing with the cold months, the holidays, and scholastic exploits get a sabbatical.
The smell of coconut tanning lotion, the breath of salt in the ocean air, and the cool deliciousness of a snow cone bring a smile to my face, Summertime is the season to play, relax, and find the joy in the natural world. When the Summer comes to a close, I find myself a tad melancholy. Remembering that this wonderful time will come around again, gives me hope. I’m savoring the warm days left through September and early October, because the cold weather will be here soon enough.
My name is Denise and my journey dealing with Epilepsy started in the fourth grade. I was this short, lanky little girl with dark blonde hair who was having problems concentrating in class. I remember my mother and teachers thought that I was bored or disenchanted. They called me a daydreamer and they thought that I had a learning disability. Then one day, it happened. I stood up in class, turned around, and sat in my chair. When my teacher asked me why I stood up, I had no memory of it. My teacher didn’t believe me and thought that I was just being a disturbance, but he was still puzzled why I didn’t have any memory of the incident. When he spoke to my mother during the parent teacher conference, she was very upset. I was then taken to a neurologist who surmised that my seizure was caused by a myriad of difference conditions. Spinal meningitis, Lyme’s disease, or Epilepsy. I was hospitalized and given a variety of different tests, such as CAT scans, MRI’s, and spinal taps. I was so scared and felt so alone. It was hard to deal with and digest at my age. Finally, when it was all said and done, petit mal epilepsy was my diagnosis. For years I dealt with absence seizures, taking a variety of different medications. Everything from Zarontin to Tegretol. Tegretol, out of all of the medications I had to take, was the absolute worst when it came to side effects. I ran a 105 degree fever and was coated in a sunburn like rash. It was very depressing and exhausting. My mother thought I was having seizures every few minutes and took every chance she could to point them out, which saddened me and pissed me off. Finding normalcy was increasingly difficult and I felt like I didn’t belong. During this time, my parents moved twice. It was hard for me to make friends and I always felt as if I was a freak. My Dad and my little sister were the only ones who treated me like a person instead of an “epileptic”. I know that most everyone that I was close to had their heart in the right place, even though I felt that acknowledging my seizures felt as if they were constantly pointing out my faults. I just felt as if I had no right to a normal life. Once I was in my late teens, I started to feel as if I had a grip on my own life. I made friends, which are still close friends to this day. I knew that I couldn’t drive, and that disappointed me some at first. Now I don’t feel bad about it all. After quitting high school, I worked at a variety of different jobs. When I was eighteen, I started working for a company called Fotomat, which doesn’t exist anymore. It was a chilly autumn afternoon and I was bicycling to work. As I was crossing the street, after looking both ways to a clear street, I was hit by a speeding car. I was knocked unconscious after smashing into the windshield of the oncoming car and hitting a phone pole, which broke my arm and cracked my skull open, among other injuries. I spent Thanksgiving and Halloween in the hospital trying to recover. After I left the hospital and a year went by, my parents lost our home in Brick. We moved to my Aunt’s home. She was suffering with Alzheimer’s Disease. I was in the bathroom, brushing my teeth and getting in the shower before work, when it hit me like a ton of bricks. I had a grand mal seizure. My mother was so scared that she screamed for my father, who was walking the dog down the street. He heard her, and ran home. Needless to say, I was hospitalized. I can remember crying and apologizing to my parents and my little sister. This is when I began a regime of tests and different medications. My doctors theorized that the worsening of my condition was due to my traumatic accident. My seizures were very hard to control, even with high dose neuroleptics and I ended up on disability. During these difficult times, I fell in love with a wonderful man. Donald loved me for who I was and he wasn’t scared or deterred by my Epilepsy. We eventually married and he’d never seen me have a seizure before. I was suffering with ongoing tonsillitis and had elective surgery to remove them. The day I came home, after an exhausting day in same-day surgery. I went to climb the stairs and rest in bed, and I had a grand mal on the stairwell. It was the first time that Donny had seen me have a seizure. He was yelling for my mother, who was busy watching television, but he managed to carry me safely into bed. When I came to, I was crying and apologizing to him. He looked at me and said, “I love you! It’s alright.” That meant so much to me. It helped me feel that I wasn’t a freak or an oddity, that I was a person who deserved to be loved and cared for. I’ve been to many neurologists and been on so many different medications, but now I’m the closest I’ve been to controlled. I still have breakthrough seizures, but they’re not as dramatic as the past. I’m still disabled, but I went back to school to finish my GED and then I went to college, which resulted in my Associates Degree. I am longing to finish my bachelors in communications and eventually working in social media. I have three cats, a rabbit, and a guinea pig who live with me and my wonderful husband, Donald in an apartment in Howell, New Jersey. I live for every day and I realize that I live with Epilepsy, but it isn’t part of my identity.
As a joke, I’ve said that I’m owned by my cats. This, in a sense, is true. The best parts about a cat are their free spirit and independence along with an unconditional love that’s unparalleled. My cats are my kids, my best friends, and my shadows. Animals, such as cats, dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs etc., give us the privilege of sharing their lives with us. We are so lucky to have a companion who accepts on best days and our worst. They comfort us when we’re blue and make us laugh and smile as they play. It’s a real gift. Cats are sometimes misunderstood as aloof creatures that aren’t as emotionally forthcoming as dogs. This is completely and utterly a falsehood. Although my cats cherish their alone time, they never let you forget how affectionate and loving they are toward their mamas and dadas. They are more finicky than dogs, but I think that gives them more depth of character. I still marvel at Kirah as she chases her tail on the dining room floor. She is ten now and I still have a hard time believing it. I remember her playing with the same amount of energy as she does today. When we’d lost Stubby and Helen, my heart had this hole in it. Kirah was feeling the gap too. She never left my side and wasn’t as playful. That’s when I realized it was the right time to bring in another baby. Little did I know that I would be adopting two. These little black kittens, who practically looked identical, were born under a packard in a friends driveway in April. They were so adorable and inseparable, that I adopted both of them as soon as they were weaned. My husband immediately fell in love with them, as I did. Kirah took a bit more convincing, but now they are the best of friends. Kirah is the best big sister they’ve could have wished for. She grooms them, plays with them, cuddles with them, and they even play musical food dishes at dinner time. Lois Lane and Clark Kent are our wildcat panther twins. They’re quite the handful, but are totally worth every minute! Watching them grow from the little fuzzy black kittens has been so magical. Animals make your heart grow exponentially and we couldn’t ever imagine life without our furbabies. They know us better than we know ourselves. Everyday with my cats, rabbit, and guinea pig is a gift. They teach you appreciate life to its fullest.