‘You can still live such a happy life with epilepsy’

By Aimee Walsh

WHEN Megan Finlay (23), was diagnosed with epilepsy she was told by doctors she would not experience a normal life. Megan was determined to prove them wrong.

Megan Finlay from Lucan was just 12-years-old when she was diagnosed with epilepsy after experiencing bouts of ‘absence seizures’ when she was a student at St Joseph’s College in Lucan.

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Megan Finlay was determined to live a normal life after being diagnosed with epilepsy when she was 12-years-old

“When I was in school I would get one of them absence seizures where I blanked out. It would feel like a while but it would only really be a few seconds.

"I would come back and I would be like ‘oh what was I doing, What happened?’. It kept happening for a while and I told my Mam. I got tested and diagnosed with epilepsy. I didn’t really believe that I had it because I didn’t really know what epilepsy was.

“It is hard to define epilepsy because there are so many different types. You don’t look at someone and think they have epilepsy.

“It can be the simplest thing like an absence seizure which is where you kind of blank out, and that is mainly what I have. You also can have seizures where you fall to the ground, I think that’s what a lot of people perceive epilepsy as.” Megan explains.

Epilepsy is defined as a group of neurological disorders characterized by recurrent epileptic seizures. Whilst not all epilepsy is genetic, some children are born with changes to specific genes that cause them to develop epilepsy, and some people inherit a low seizure threshold, which was the case for Megan.

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Megan Finlay helping raise awareness of International Epilepsy Day

“My aunty has epilepsy, she got it when she was in her twenties and she grew out of it. My dad’s aunty got it and she was in her 40’s, so it was worse for her because she had to stop driving and everything whereas I grew up knowing that I had epilepsy. I think it was more difficult for her.” Says Megan.

February 8, 2021 marks International Epilepsy Day - a major day for epilepsy awareness across the globe. Nearly 40,000 people in Ireland are affected by epilepsy today and over 50 million people Worldwide. Megan believes it is a day to raise awareness and break down the stigma surrounding epilepsy.

“I don’t think there is enough awareness raised because anybody I tell asks me to explain what it is or ‘tell me what to do if I have a seizure’. I don’t expect everyone to know, but I would love people to know the steps to take if someone does have a seizure, and they are so easy to learn. That’s the thing, epilepsy is so common and you could be saving someone’s life if you just learned those steps.”

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Megan has gone on to fight against those who said she cannot live a normal life and is currently studying Media Studies and Sociology in Maynooth University whilst working part-time in Claire’s Accessories. She currently takes two medications twice a day to keep her seizures at bay.

“Now, I am a year seizure free. I want to do my theory test but my mam says to me, ‘Megan it could happen to you tomorrow’ and that is a bit annoying.

“Day to day my memory isn’t the best. I still experience some absence seizures which is hard. For example, if I am talking to my manager in work and it happens, I do feel embarrassed.

“You can still live such a happy life with epilepsy. It does not stop you from doing anything. When I got to college, I always got told I couldn’t go on an Erasmus, I could never live alone and it was always going to be hard for me to have a drink.

“I felt pushed back a little bit by the doctors. I thought I was not going to be able to experience anything.

 “I thought to myself, I am not going to live this way anymore. I got so much better and was able to go on Erasmus, and I fought against them. You cannot let it define you.”

Please visit Epilepsy for more information about epilepsy and how you can get involved to raise awareness on International Epilepsy Day.

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