My name is Deidre Skinner and I am a 17 year old Grade 12 student at Exploits Valley High, Grand Falls-Windsor. I am a typical 17 year old who enjoys spending time with friends and participating in various activities such as voice, swimming, Fundamentals Family Fitness, various school activities such as Social Action, Leadership, and Grad Steering, and my passion… Figure Skating. I do well in school and have Honors, thanks to the support of my family, teachers and administrators past and present who have guided me on the journey that my life took. I am hoping to study Kinesiology at Memorial University in 2017. Although I am active and I am a conscientious student, I have a seizure disorder.
It was December 2009 when my mother and I were sat at the kitchen table playing a few games of Mastermind. Although it was unknown to me at the time, my mom noticed me grasp onto the placemat suddenly for no apparent reason. Over time, she began to notice starring episodes and babbling about things that didn’t make sense. My mom started to monitor me closely and believed these episodes were seizures so she brought me to our family doctor. From there, I was referred for an EEG in February 2010. The EEG showed abnormalities on the right side of my brain. A few days later, I had a CAT scan which led to the diagnosis of a brain tumor. The diagnosis came as a shock to me and my family and we were all devastated by the news. At the time I didn’t realize the seriousness of having a brain tumor. My biggest concern was not being able to skate and missing the Kiwanis Music Festival. I immediately had to start taking seizure medication and one week after my diagnosis, on February 27, 2010 I underwent brain surgery at the Janeway Children’s Hospital. Fortunately, my tumor was removed and it was determined that it was benign, which was a huge relief; however, I did have to continue to take seizure medication. After recovery I returned to school and 6 months after surgery I returned to skating. Nothing made me happier than getting to return to the ice and skating again. I wasn’t going to let the ordeal interfere with my skating or my schooling. I was seizure free for about 8 months… but the seizures started again.
Over the next 5 years I tried different seizure medications and combinations to try to control my seizures but to no avail. My seizures became more frequent over time. Despite the challenges, I refused to let my seizures interfere with my activities, my school work, or skating. I always tried to persevere despite the obstacles. Since we couldn’t get my seizures controlled with medications, I was referred to the SickKids Hospital in Toronto. I spent a week in the Epilepsy Unit where they ran a battery of tests. More testing was done at the Janeway and it was determined that I was a candidate for another brain surgery that would hopefully stop my seizures or at least reduce them. I made the decision, with the support of my family, to have the surgery. On May 22, 2015 I had a Right Temporal Lobectomy at the Toronto SickKids hospital. I had to continue to take seizure medication and will continue to do so for a while but I am happy to say that I have been seizure free ever since the second brain surgery. Since my initial diagnosis I have achieved numerous awards through skating, qualifying for the NL Winter Games and to the Atlantic Figure Skating Competitions in Halifax. As well, I have achieved many academic successes at school. Just recently on January 9, 2017 I obtained my Driver’s License. Driving was something I never thought I would be able to do but the second brain surgery has made that possible.
One thing I’ve learned though this entire experience is not to give up and always believe in yourself. There were times during my journey when it would have been easier for me to give up on everything, but I always believed I was capable of accomplishing anything I set my mind to. I kept fighting and I proved to myself that anything is possible. My journey has taught me life lessons and has shaped me into the person I am today – strong, determined, and compassionate. While we cannot change the hand we were dealt, we can certainly take our challenges and use it as motivation to achieve anything we set our mind to.
March is Epilepsy month and a time to bring awareness to people living with this neurological disorder. I would ask you to join with me and Epilepsy NL as we use this opportunity to bring epilepsy out of the shadows