A Woman’s Journey out of the Mystery of Epilepsy

Throughout my early childhood, I feared those moments of darkness that struck unexpectedly several times a week. Unknown to me at that time, I had epilepsy, a disorder of the central nervous system.

I clearly remember the anxiety I experienced when I felt a heat rush go through my body and all that was around me dissipated from my vision. In the midst of my child play, I felt my life close in on me as fear trembled within my soul. As a result of my spells, I went to my knees and awoke with the accompanying thought, Am I going to die? Underlying my pleasant yet quiet personality was emotional turmoil that remained for several years.

To treat my epilepsy, my neurologist prescribed three medications for me. In spite of my taking many medications, my seizures reoccurred week after week, year after year. At age eight, I began searching for an answer to the mystery of my epilepsy. I altered my diet, looked for cause and effect relationships between what I ate and the timing of my seizures, and read pamphlets about seizures. Deep in my heart I held the hope that one day God would cure me of my seizures.

But years passed, and I continued having seizures that left me feeling exhausted and prevented me from participating in originally planned activities. Every time I left the neurologist’s office, I felt discouraged knowing that I would probably remain on medication and continue having seizures for the rest of my life.

After thirteen years of school, I graduated from high school with my class and entered college to study to be an elementary school teacher. Aside from not having my driver’s license and still experiencing one to three seizures a week, I studied several hours and made above average grades. I still held hope in my heart that one day I would be cured of my epilepsy, that which had caused me emotional struggles throughout my childhood and young adult life.

Before transferring to a four-year college where I would complete my degree program, I received a phone call from the receptionist at my neurologist’s office asking me to come in for an appointment. An appointment was scheduled as I anticipated hearing that the doctor again wanted to increase my medication.

While I waited for the day of my appointment to arrive, I became discouraged after having multiple seizures that were the result of studying many hours and contending with the ordinary stressful circumstances of college. Questions of doubt swept over my mind as I thought about all of the classes that I needed to take in order to graduate. The day of my doctor’s appointment, my neurologist asked me the routine questions about my seizure frequency and the side effects of my medication. Then he presented to me an opportunity that I thought I would never hear. “Amy,” he said, “you have the type of seizures that are not controllable by medication. However, your seizures are located in the part of the brain that is the most operable.” My thoughts froze as I listened with amazement. “If you are interested, I want to refer you to a clinic that can run several medical tests on you to determine if you are a candidate for brain surgery.” My life’s dream to become seizure-free might become a reality, I thought to myself. Without hesitation, I accepted my doctor's recommendation. Deep in my heart, I knew that God was answering prayer.

While I waited to be called for pre-operational testing, I prayed to God that I would be able to have the surgery and that He would answer my childhood prayer. Philippians 4:6 says, Be careful for nothing: but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Through continued prayer and faith in God, I had an inner peace about this unique opportunity.

A year-and-a-half later in August of 1993, I underwent pre-operational testing that would determine if I were a candidate for brain surgery. The testing included a 24-hour EEG over a four-day period, a PET scan, an angio-gram, a CAT scan, an MRI, a visual field test, and psychological testing. After completing all of these tests, all I had to do was wait to hear the results. Each day I prayed and asked God that He would open doors for me to have brain surgery.

About a month after my pre-operational testing, I was in my college dorm when the phone rang. It was my nurse from the Cleveland Clinic. She said, “Amy, the epilepsy team has reviewed the results of your medical tests, and the entire team agreed that you are an excellent candidate for brain surgery.” A sense of peace came over me as I realized that my childhood dream to become seizure-free was about to become a reality. As I anticipated being on the operating table less than a year later, I prayed for the Lord's will to be done in my life.

As I thought about having brain surgery and becoming cured of my epilepsy, I started realizing the depth of the power of God. I realized that He loved me so much that He would open doors for a cure to my seizures. I had learned that nothing is impossible for God. Deep in my heart, I knew it was God's will for my life for me to undergo brain surgery. The hope that I had at the point was the assurance in my heart that God was going to remove the deepest mystery in my life---that being epilepsy.

From the day that I found out that I was a candidate for brain surgery until just prior to my surgery, I went through various spiritual and emotional battles. During that ten month period of waiting for surgery to take place, many questions came to my mind. I frequently thought to myself, Will I retain all of my long-term memory after surgery? . . . What if I am worse off after surgery than I am now. . . . Will the Lord take my life on the operating table? Will I be myself after surgery? Will I be the "Amy" that others know? While I waited to be scheduled for surgery, I drew near to God. As I completed my final classes toward my Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education, I spent hours in prayer asking for God to have his hand in my life both then and on the day of my surgery.

During my last semester of undergraduate classes, the intensity of my seizures increased due to the medication I was taking. One morning while I was in the college dorm bathroom preparing for another day of classes, I felt the onset of an aura. The next thing I knew I awoke on the bathroom floor, and my left arm was shaking involuntary. I had experienced a grand mal seizure, the second one I had experienced within a year. The reality of my condition struck my mind as I feared going to classes knowing that I could have another grand mal seizure at any moment throughout the day.

My desire to have brain surgery increased as I experienced an increase in seizures, and consequently, emotional turmoil. Although I knew that there were risks of losing part of my vision or speech by having the surgery, I still remained at peace about my decision. The only way to end the emotional and physical struggle in my life was to have the damaged part of my brain removed that had triggered multiple seizures.

After college graduation commencement, I prepared for the big day. Hopes of gaining a new life radiated in my heart as I counted the days before my surgery. When I left for Cleveland, Ohio in the middle of June, I carried in my heart the hope that in a matter of days, my life would be changed for the better. As I prepared to have brain surgery, I had the assurance that God was with me just as He had been when I was a child and had feared for my very life.

The day before my surgery, I met my surgeon for the first time. It was that day that I learned where the scar tissue was located. During our meeting, he explained that I had a damaged long-term memory bank. He said that 85% of my hippocampus on the right side of my brain was damaged and that the left hippocampus had stored all of my knowledge. In other words, the left side had compensated for the scar tissue that was on the right side.

The morning of my surgery, I awoke knowing that in a matter of hours I would be under complete anesthesia with my life being sustained by the medical professional, but ultimately by God. Only moments before a nurse took me to the operating room, I met with my family as they gave me words of encouragement before my surgery. After a nurse mentioned that they were ready for me, my mom reached over and gave me a hug as though she were hugging me for the last time. As I sensed her heavy thoughts, I said, "It's all in God's hands." She replied by saying, "I know it is. . . . I love you."

On June 17th, 1994, I had the most awesome emotion when I was on the operating table waiting to inhale the fumes from the gas mask. At a moment in my life when I could have been trembling with fear, my heart, body, and mind were at peace. I had the peace of God that passeth all understanding. (Philippians 4:7) As I lay in the cold operating room with medical equipment all around me, I was in awe as I meditated on the significance of that day. I would soon awake to a life I had never known.

After about five hours of brain surgery, I awoke to a major headache and knowledge that God was with me all the way through my surgery. Four days after surgery, I walked out of the Cleveland Clinic with no hair, a scar, and thirty-one staples on the side of my head. As I anticipated arriving home about 5 hours later, I thanked God for watching over me and for the sunshine that indicated that another day had arrived.

I was alive! In addition to the physical healing that has taken place in my life, the Lord has also led me through emotional healing. That which I had hoped for throughout my childhood had finally become a reality. But as I came experienced a life I had longed to know, memories of the darkness and fear weighed heavily on my mind.

As I encountered a life I had never known, this thought occurred to me: I still have one long-term memory bank that holds my memories of being afflicted by seizures, my being overdosed on medication, and the emotional turmoil I had encountered in my childhood and young adult years as a result of having seizures. Although I deeply rejoiced over the life that I had been granted, I realized that no brain surgeon could removed the memories of fearing to go through another day or the thought of death that accompanied a grand mal seizure. Only God could help me overcome my fears and heal me of my emotional wounds. It was during those darkest moments of my life that, once again, God preserved my life. In my long hours of depression, I knew that God has a purpose for my life.

When I went to my six-week check-up, I met with my surgeon who evaluated the healing of my incision. He assured me that my scar was healing as it should, and he was pleased with how well I was recovering. As my mom sat next to me listening to my surgeon explain certain aspects of the surgery, I marveled at not only having made it through brain surgery with my personality still intact but also at having gone six weeks without experiencing a seizure. Mom shared similar thoughts. After my surgeon finished his examination of me, Mom expressed her thankfulness for the procedure the surgeon had performed.

“You are a wonderful man,” she expressed with tears in her eyes. With his head hanging in humility, he replied, “Don’t thank me.” He looked and pointed up. “Thank Him.” Mom and I nodded our heads in agreement.

At the conclusion of this meeting, Mom and I walked out of the office in awe over my surgeon’s response to our expression of thankfulness. He too was a believer and had seen the power of God the day of my surgery, and on all the other days when he had performed brain surgery on individuals whose epilepsy could not be cured by medication. The power to heal came not from the surgeon, but from God.

Six months passed after surgery, and I remained seizure-free. At age 24 and after more than six months of being seizure-free, I received my driver’s license for the first time in my life. On June 17th, 2001, I celebrated seven years of being seizure-free.

Prior to my surgery, I thought life was about severe emotional and physical pain. It wasn't until about five years ago that I realized that emotional suffering didn't have to dominate my life. As I continue to experience good physical health without the onset of darkness, I slowly realized that God had prepared for me a life free from the trauma of having seizures. The battle was over--for the Lord had done great things.

Since my surgery, the Lord has given me a new outlook on life and a renewed spirit for living. I'm free from sudden darkness. I'm free from the fear of death. I'm free from seizure medication, and I'm free from the emotional burdens that went along with my seizure disorder. Today when I reflect on all that God has brought me through, I say to myself, Nothing is impossible for God.

Today I have one long-term memory instead of the typical two. I have one control system for emotions instead of two. But more importantly, I have Christ in my life----the One who is the ultimate physician and the One who can make the lame to walk and the blind to see. Now you know why I can say with confidence that Nothing is impossible for God.

I never blamed God for my having epilepsy. I have to give my mother credit for the fact that I didn't get angry with God for all that I went through. My mom has often said, "God has a plan for everything." In other words, God has a reason for tragic events and for difficulties that come into our lives. She's right. Although I went through a great deal of pain and suffering, I can now minister to others. I wouldn't be helping others in the way that I am today had the Lord allowed me to be cured of my seizures at much earlier age or had He not cured me at all. Yes, God has a plan for everything.

Having experienced the heartache and the victory, I now have a deeper understanding of why God allowed me to endure the triumph over epilepsy. Each day as I live a healthy life, I thank God for walking with me through the dark valleys of death--––for He was right beside me. Even through the writing of my book, He was there through every memory of darkness and light. Daily He gives me the strength to live life to the fullest.

Currently I am a teacher in Greenville, South Carolina where I instruct emotionally handicapped students in a public school. In 1999, I received my Masters in Special Education. To learn more about how I gained victory over epilepsy and how you can better treat epilepsy, you can order my book entitled Rejoice in the Light: A Woman’s Journey Out of the Mystery of Epilepsy. I hope that my story of both grief and victory will turn your eyes toward His light.

Amy E. Crane
Contact Information
e-mail: amy@epilepsycured.org

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