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Before being diagnosed with epilepsy, Amanda Cook says she felt “trapped” by her seizure disorder. But since her diagnosis, Amanda says her confidence has soared, and she’s now getting ready to take the first steps toward a career in interior design.

 Amanda has been accepted into the interior design technology program at George Brown College for the upcoming academic year. The first time she applied for a spot in the program she declined the offer because she believed her condition would be an obstacle to her success.

“I saw my epilepsy as a barrier and declined myself the opportunity to pursue my education because of it,” she says.

Amanda experiences simple partial seizures and complex partial seizures. When a person is having a partial seizure, others may not be aware of what is happening.

Amanda notes that most people associate epilepsy with tonic-clonic seizures and many people know what to do when someone is having one. Tonic-clonic seizures are seizures that cause a person to lose consciousness, fall to the ground and have convulsions.

People experiencing partial seizures, however, are alert and able to interact. But after the seizure the person will usually have a memory lapse.

Before her diagnosis, Amanda says her teachers, friends and family members didn’t understand what she was going through. Even she didn’t fully understand it, she says.

Having a formal diagnosis encouraged Amanda to learn more about her condition and seek support to help her live with her seizures.

With the help of support groups, friends, family and school counsellors, Amanda says her confidence has dramatically increased. This change has come at a crucial time, as she is beginning to chart the course of her future.

“Before I was diagnosed with epilepsy, my hope for my future was bleak; I always thought I would either be in an accident while I was unaware of my surroundings, or would never do well enough in school to be accepted into or graduate from any college,” Amanda says.

“Now that I have been diagnosed with epilepsy, I know that even though I may struggle with medical, academic and personal issues throughout my college life and onwards.

“I will always be able to find a way to move forward.”

Amanda is one of four students to receive an OBCL Epilepsy Scholarship Award this year. The scholarships were presented to recipients June 17 during Epilepsy Ontario’s Summerfest: Sail Away cruise in Toronto.

As she moves ahead with her academic and career plans, Amanda says she will raise epilepsy awareness and encourage others living with the condition to not let their seizure disorder interfere with their ambitions and goals.

OBCL has been supporting students with epilepsy through the scholarship awards since 2006. Every year, up to 10 Ontario students win a $1,000 scholarship for post-secondary education. As part of their application package, students must submit a personal essay under that year’s theme.