While I know Christmas can be seen as a time of spending money, of crazy sales, of excess, I also know it as a time of love, generosity, but most of all, of reflection.
A decade and a half ago now, I became one of the 5% of people, that was lucky enough to undergo brain surgery and it completely changed my life. But 15 years is a long time and the advances in technology have changed massively and the potential to control or cure epilepsy has only gotten greater. I can only say, to anyone with epilepsy, don't lose hope that it can be controlled.
Recently I became part of a new network of people with epilepsy, one that shares stories and knowledge, experiences and set-backs as well as advances. It's difficult to hear of people struggling with the side effects of their medication, because through the years since developing the condition age 4, and since being diagnosed age 9, now 20 years ago, I've had my fair share of anti-epileptic medication, side effects. While it may have taken 2 decades and a number of years of experimenting and medical support, I've finally found a combination of medication and previous treatment that has meant I have almost completely controlled epilepsy, with no medication side effects. I know first hand that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I don't really know any different in my life, but one thing I have learnt over 25 years, is that epilepsy, doesn't control your life if you don't let it. I have made a decision to make sure that I only take the positives from my condition, like the resilience I have and inspiration I had gathered from others with the condition, from over the years.
What I hope for next year, is to show how the best of myself, moulded from my experiences with the condition, will help show some of the best of British sport. It's still very much my ambition to break the Women's 24HR Track Cycling World Record. I hope that I'll find the support I need and a venue that believes in what I want to achieve, not so much for myself, but for my condition. I've said it before, but I'm not ashamed to have epilepsy, people get ill, I just get ill in a way that is less familiar to a number of people. It's a vicious cycle if a stigma is fuelled by a lack of knowledge and that lack of knowledge is fuelled by a lack of people talking about their condition because of the stigma. I'm just lucky that I found cycling and a way to do something so extreme, that people in good health feel that even they, wouldn't be able to take on the 24HR WR. I know many of my friends have been treated like they were China dolls, that they were breakable or less physically able because of their epilepsy, but I feel I can smash that myth. Not only that but I also want to show that the set-backs the condition has dealt me, has made me more mentally strong than the average individual, like I know my friends with the condition are too.
I'm hoping for a lot with wanting to really tackle the stigma of epilepsy properly. But like the people that are constantly developing new technologies and medication to try and control the condition, if I don't at least try, I'll have no hope at all.
To everyone who has been touched by epilepsy reading this post, I sincerely hope that 2016 is the year you find that perfect medication, or treatment, or that you find a way to help to tackle the stigma. I hope that you all have as happy and healthy a 2016 as possible.