How a positive attitude helped student overcome epilepsy challenges

March 4, 2024

By Deron Hamel

Amber Demers recalls the first time she experienced a seizure – it was in 2007, the day before classes began when she was a first-year university student.

Amber Demers holds the cheque she received after being awarded an Epilepsy Ontario Scholarship.

Shortly after, she was diagnosed with epilepsy. Simultaneously, Amber found herself facing two new challenges: living with a seizure disorder and dealing with a full-time university class schedule.

“Not only was I terrified of my next adventure of navigating the world of post-secondary education, I was now facing this new adventure with an epilepsy diagnosis filled with fear and uncertainty,” she says.

At the time, Amber says her neurologist and family doctor could not understand what was causing her seizures. What Amber describes as her “seizure-control journey” started with her testing new medications and her doctors trying to understand what was triggering her seizures.

“This was all done while maintaining a full-time course load in university, attending all my classes and completing all of my assignments,” Amber says.

“This was not an easy task – especially while trying to understand my triggers.”

At this point, Amber says she needed to put supports in place to help her get through university while maintaining a low stress level, despite repeated seizures.

She began working to understand her epilepsy so she could continue living a successful life while limiting epilepsy’s impact.

“This led me to the development of a positive attitude,” Amber says. “There was no way I could handle all of these obstacles without this. I focused on the positives in my life and positive steps to continuously move forward.”

Amber has also found that involving herself in the epilepsy community has helped her cope with her condition.

Since 2012 she has been involved with Epilepsy Niagara in various capacities including serving as a board member, volunteering and being on the events committee. Most recently, she became president of the agency’s board of directors.

“As the board president, my goal has been community outreach and determining how the agency can provide support services to those living in Niagara,” she says.

“Events are crucial to Epilepsy Niagara, as (they) assist with providing awareness about epilepsy, informing members of the community and allowing for fundraising efforts to increase the amount of support that Epilepsy Niagara can provide.”

Amber is one of six recipients of Epilepsy Ontario’s 2023 annual scholarship. For more than 15 years, Epilepsy Ontario has been providing scholarships to exceptional students who have confronted and overcome remarkable barriers in their academic and personal lives due to their epilepsy.

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