A Johnstown woman who is celebrating 10 years free from epilepsy wants to share her story of inspiration.
“November is National Epilepsy Month, so the time is right,” she says.
Megan Adams-West was 8 years old when she had her first seizure, but she remembers exactly how it felt.
“I remember this weird and crazy feeling. It felt like I was on a roller coaster,” she says.
“You know that feeling when you’re slowly working your way to the top and know you’re about drop? That’s what my seizures felt like.
“With some, I would just stare into space for a minute or so. Sometimes they happened so fast, I just fell to the ground or starting hitting my hands off of things.
“If I was lucky, I felt them coming on and would go to the restroom so no one would see me,” she says.
“Sometimes the seizures would only last 30 seconds ... and sometimes min- utes.
“It was tough in grade school because I was embarrassed if I would seize in front of people.
“You’re scared every day. Am I going to seize today?”
Adams-West says a seizure “just takes over your body, leaving you exhausted, drained and upset – because it’s controlling your life. (After some seizures), I could not talk and would sleep the rest of the day.”
The Westmont woman says her seizures were kept under control most of the time and she was able to do the normal activities most young people do.
“Sometimes I would hit a bump in the road and would be hospitalized for a few days, but I was used to that by the time I was in my 20s.”
In 2005, Adams-West graduated from culinary school, but epilepsy made it difficult to hold down a full-time job.
“I had so many tests done … overnight stays at the hospitals. But they just kept increasing my seizure medication,” she says. “I was on 12 seizure meds a day. Twelve! It was exhausting.”
In 2008, Adams-West found out she was pregnant and, she says, “that’s when everything did a 360.
“I lost my driver’s license and could not work anymore. Some days, I would have up to 12 seizures in one day – all while carrying a child. I had a lot of support and help, but it just seemed like every day was getting harder and I was scared.
“I was very blessed when my son was born 100 percent healthy,” she says. “We were not expecting that.”
Still the seizures continued and, in 2009, Adams-West met with an epileptologist, who performed various tests and then explained the situation. “I had scar tissue around my left temporal lobe that was causing all of my seizures,” she says. “So it was either take the risk of having brain surgery or suffer with seizures the rest of my life.”
The new mother decided to have the operation, which took place Aug. 16, 2010, in Johnstown.
“It was a very scary procedure,” she says. “It could have affected my speech, vision and many other things.”
She attributes the success of the surgery to her doctors. “Dr Alfred Bowles was the brain surgeon and Dr. Frank Gilliam was the epileptologist,” she says. “They were wonderful.”
There were none of the dreaded side effects and the seizures stopped.
Adams-West opened her own bakery in 2014 and had another son in 2015.
This year, on the 10th anniversary of her surgery, the family held a celebration to mark the occasion.
Although no longer practicing medicine in Johnstown, Dr. Bowles attend the event.
“He’s a great man and loving doctor,” Adams-West says.
Although her bakery is closed, she still works in the culinary field, teaching students at Greater Johnstown High School.
Adams-West is working on a book, Butterflies, Faith and Recipes, on her journey with epilepsy. “It’s about my life story with my favorite scriptures and recipes after each chapter.
“Epilepsy is a very serious disease,” she says. “And, even for me, seeing a person seize is very scary.
“I’m so blessed to be healthy after what my body went through.”