Mom with epilepsy is seizure-free after brain surgery five years ago

The fall marks a new school year and a new season. For Lisa Martin of Mission, it’s the opportunity to do things she never thought she could do.

Lisa Martin shares her passion for gardening with daughter Laura at their Mission home.

The fall marks a new school year and a new season.

For Lisa Martin of Mission, it’s the opportunity to do things she never thought she could do.

Martin, 51, struggled with right frontal lobe epilepsy for more than 40 years, but this Aug. 17 marked the fifth year she has been seizure-free.

Following brain surgery in 2006 – two years after being officially diagnosed – Martin is now able to do things that would have previously given her pause.

She just recently went camping with 400 Girl Guides.

“I spent a wonderful weekend out in 30 (kilometre) winds and some rain, having a blast,” Martin says with a smile.

Given a 99 per cent guarantee that removing her right frontal lobe would stop the episodes, Martin made the hard decision to proceed. Before surgery, she was at risk of having 25 or more seizures a day – each one accompanied with searing stomach pain.

While Martin still gets the auras – brief moments resembling deja vu – she can go on with her day, no longer plagued with the possibility of seizing.

As a child, experiencing the deja vu, Martin would yell to her mother, “I’ve done this before!  I’ve done this before!”

Her mom would just stare in confusion, not knowing that her daughter was having a seizure.

And her condition remained a mystery for many years. Martin didn’t have the typical symptoms of losing consciousness and body spasms that suggest epilepsy.

Her diagnosis was a chance of fate.Martin’s oldest daughter Krystal, 21, was born with bronchial asthma.

One day, while at a specialist, Martin had a seizure. Sensing the difference in her demeanor, the doctor asked the young mother about her condition.

Having a nephew who was officially diagnosed with the condition, the doctor was able to recognize the condition – right frontal lobe epilepsy.

Two years later, in 2004, Martin was told that she was a perfect candidate for surgery.

Although the procedure left her seizure-free, Martin is still recuperating. The most significant side-effect has been a loss of memory.

In the months following the operation, Martin would have no recollection of something told to her just moments prior.

To this day, Martin’s family leaves notes on the stove, detailing their whereabouts.

Martin laughs and says she thinks she is now able to remember things nine times out of 10, but adds that her family might not agree, glancing at her 17-year-old daughter Laura.

It’s this positive, light-hearted attitude that has brought her through the ordeal.

And even though her condition has come with many obstacles, she is still eager to inform others about epilepsy.

“A lot of people hide it, because they don’t want the kind of reaction they get,” Martin says.

She’s experienced that first-hand.Finding employment was often hard.

In one job interview, after mentioning her condition, the  employer said she would not be hired because she had epilepsy.

Her story is only one of many she’s heard – mainly from fellow members of the Centre for Epilepsy and Seizure Education in Abbotsford.

Martin credits part of her success in finding a job to the staff at the centre, who are always more than willing to talk to prospective employers in order to deconstruct the stigma.

Growing up with her mom and now having a best friend with epilepsy, Laura says she has also encountered many misconceptions of the condition.

“People hear the word and they think the worst. But it doesn’t have to take over your life.  You can work around it and still live life like everyone else.”

Martin hopes awareness about epilepsy grows.

“I’m not afraid to talk about it. The only way you are going to get it out there is to talk about it.”

The annual awareness day for epilepsy, Purple Day, is March 26.  For more information, visit www.epilepsy.cc

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