Please note: Everyone's epilepsy is different and successful treatments can vary from person to person. Treatments should be managed by a healthcare practitioner.
By Leah Burchill
Kori experienced her first tonic-clonic seizure at age 25. She didn’t have another seizure until a year later. With the medications she was taking, she felt like her seizures were under control. She was able to travel up North and become a math and science teacher in Indigenous schools. Teaching was something Kori only planned to do for a short while, but she enjoyed it so much that she stayed for 10-years.
Once in her 40s, Kori started perimenopause, an early stage of menopause. Her perimenopause symptoms were so severe, that she eventually had to leave teaching and move back to Ottawa.
With perimenopause side effects came the return of Kori’s tonic-clonic seizure after being seizure-free for years. It was the fluctuation in her body’s hormones that caused an increase in both tonic-clonic and absence seizures.
“By the time Christmas had come, I had more seizures than I had in my lifetime,” explains Kori. “My doctors raised my meds to as high as they could go without going into toxic levels, and one of them [affected my] processing. I was having a lot of trouble doing my work, I was having trouble focusing, I was having trouble functioning. By January I was having [seizures] a couple of times a week.”
Even with worsening epilepsy, Kori wanted to keep her independence. She was determined to keep living on her own and have a career.
Knowing perimenopause was having a significant impact on her body, Kori suggested to a women’s specialist that hormone changes could be increasing her seizures. After testing, the doctor concluded that Kori was right. Now every three months Kori takes a drug that “shuts off” her hormones to reduce her seizures.
Kori says, “I only have a seizure every couple of months, and since the pandemic started it’s every couple weeks. But it has never been as bad since I got my hormones shut off.”
With her seizures under better control, Kori lives independently and works at Statistics Canada where she finds value in being open about her epilepsy. She makes sure her executives and co-workers are aware of her epilepsy in hopes they’ll be more comfortable with knowing what to do if she has a seizure at work.
“I’m very open about [my epilepsy]. There are other people with epilepsy at the office, and there’s a few that I’m the only person who knows because I am so open about it,” says Kori. “I want people to know because I want people to not be embarrassed. If I have a seizure, I want people to feel really comfortable to talk about it and not be embarrassed for me.”