At the time of her diagnosis in January 1994, Epilepsy Advocate Heather E. was a straight-A student at New York's Suffolk County Community College, where she was the debate team captain and state champion. She had also just bought her first car, which she was suddenly unable to drive. Understandably, she lived in denial for several months. "I refused to believe it and didn't take my medication consistently," Heather says. "I was so angry at the world, at God, at myself and at everyone who said that I would be fine because it struck me that this was forever." That realization finally inspired her to take her condition seriously: She joined a support group at the Epilepsy Foundation and started making positive changes.
For the next 15 years, through numerous ups and downs, Heather settled for less than optimal seizure control. Finally, frustration with her neurologist's "this is as good as it gets" attitude, Heather sought help at the the International Center for Epilepsy at the University of Miami. "I went there with high hopes, not high expectations," she says. Her new epileptologist began switching her medication to find the most effective approach. Finally he was able to identify a combination therapy that improved Heather's seizure control. "I'm down to four seizures a month, so I'm hopeful," she says. "My marriage, my children, my degrees—they're all triumphs. Law school is next. It's just another reminder that I can have a successful and fulfilling life with epilepsy. In fact, I already do."