By Deron Hamel
Burlington, Ont. Grade 12 student Kate Selway says her inspiration comes from Glenna Fraumeni, a Toronto nurse and triathlete who, like Kate, is living with epilepsy.
Sports are an important part of Kate’s life. She plays soccer, badminton, field hockey, volleyball and swims on her school’s team. Though her doctor recommended she give up sports because of her condition, Kate is determined to not let epilepsy dominate her life.
She cites Glenna as an example of how people can overcome challenges brought on by epilepsy.
“She is a triathlete and her life is actually quite similar to mine,” Kate says. “She suffers from the same three types of seizures that I do: focal, dyscognitive and grand-mal (tonic-clonic). When she was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2007, she did her absolute best to keep participating in the endurance sports she loved. Like my doctors, hers told her to stop participating in those sports due to the danger.”
But Glenna did not stop doing what she loved, and her determination is serving as a light to guide Kate, the student says.
Living with epilepsy can pose challenges, but by facing those challenges and finding ways to deal with them is what allows her to live her life the way she wants.
For example, when Kate swims on her school’s team she wears a pink cap, while her teammates wear yellow caps. This is so Kate can always be seen. If Kate has a focal seizure during band class, she will keep holding her flute to her lips and her fingers moving until she can work her mouth again.
Kate says she takes her cue from Glenna, whose philosophy is to live her life the way she wants in spite of having epilepsy and to figure out ways that minimize her condition’s impact on her life.
“She treats her condition as something to work with and help her along, not (as) something that stops her from doing something she loves,” Kate says.
Kate’s perseverance has paid off. Kate earned the Athlete of the Year award in Grade 10 at her school and she was recruited to the all-star field hockey team in her league. She has also been on the honour roll every year at high school.
Kate, who wants to be a French immersion teacher, plans to start her post-secondary studies in September. She has been accepted into three universities: York, McMaster and Brock.
Kate is one of the recipients of this year’s Osler Epilepsy Scholarship. The scholarship, formerly called the OBCL Epilepsy Scholarship, is being offered to four students this year. Aside from the name change, the scholarship committee also decided to up the award amount from $1,000 to $1,500.
Osler Epilepsy Scholarships are awarded each year to exceptional students who have confronted and overcome remarkable barriers in their academic and personal lives due to their epilepsy.
Applicants also submit a 600- to 900-word essay, about a famous person who has epilepsy and what that person’s life means to them.
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