The Right Path

Wilmeth family photo
James and Lisa Wilmeth with son James and Duke

By Lisa Wilmeth

Hi I’m Lisa! Nine years ago, at age 39, I was diagnosed with epilepsy. I have frontal lobe seizures on both sides of my brain. I have tried many paths, looking for the right path for me. This has included several different medications, none of which controls my seizures, though it does help to reduce their severity. I also tried the VNS implant in January 2014, which did not help me, so I had it removed in June of 2018. In 2016, I had brain surgery at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. They did a resection surgery on the right side of my brain to reduce my seizures, however they could not perform surgery on the left side because it controls too many important things including speech, fine motor skills, and memory. You see, if you’re right-handed, the left side of your brain controls those functions, and if you’re left-handed those functions are controlled by the right side of your brain.

In the beginning, I was having seizures daily, though I have little memory of those seizures. I just remember that I felt very drained all the time. After the surgery, the number of seizures went down to around once every three months. So, in one sense the surgery was very successful, though I had hoped, of course, that I would not have any more seizures.

I had an office job that I lost, and began working with dogs, first at the Bayside. Pet Resort (where I used to have 48 dogs all to myself) and now at the Veterinary Medical Center at Lakewood Ranch, where I work three days a week, helping to keep the hospital clean and sanitary. I am an animal person and have my own dog, an American Boxer, Duke, who is big, sweet drool monster, three cats and at work, two saltwater aquariums.

Recently at work, I was introduced to a dog who was in need of a home. I found out his family had given him up because he, too, was having seizures and the family could not afford the medicine. Though I can’t adopt him because Duke is the jealous sort, I have bonded with this dog, petting and playing with him every chance I get. I have posted his story on Facebook to try to find him a new home.
I can no longer drive my vehicle, which makes me feel like a burden to those who help me get around. My greatest fear is that one day I will have a seizure in public, though, thank goodness, that hasn’t happened yet! People don’t really understand epilepsy and I try to educate them, like what to do in case I have a seizure when I am with them.

My experience with epilepsy has taught me to value my family, especially my husband James, who is a corporal with the State Troopers, and my 18-year-old son, James. Friends, too, are very important though with epilepsy, maintaining friendships is not always easy. I have lost a lot of friends. One night recently, for example, I was out with a group of girlfriends and they were talking about a cruise they were all going on – a cruise to which I had not been invited. Though they didn’t say so, I knew I hadn’t been included because of my epilepsy. Being left out hurts. But when you have epilepsy, you find out very quickly who your friends are.

One of the best things that came out of my experience with epilepsy was when my husband reached out and found JoshProvides, which helped us through its Support Group, by providing help with transportation and helping with the cost of some of my medications. Thanks to JoshProvides I also received the Epiwatch app, which monitors my heartbeat, warns us if I am about to have a seizure, and contacts my husband. JoshProvides has become an important part of my epilepsy family, and I am grateful for the many ways they have helped us.