Nick McCumber

Boulder, CO

When were you first diagnosed, and what were your thoughts after the diagnosis? I was diagnosed around age 7. I can’t say I really had any thoughts about it then. I took it as it was and I had a very supportive family. All I knew was that I had to take all of these pills and stay in bed and be quiet.

What is the hardest part about having epilepsy? Accepting it. Sometimes it feels like you don’t really know that you have it. It’s not really something that you can put your finger on. It’ s not like having a cold, where you have sneezes and sniffles. It’s not knowing what you’ve got. It’s hard to pin down. It’s not like you can say, “Well, I’ve got something and I’ll get over it.” You don’t know when you’ll get over it. Epilepsy is just much different.

What is the hardest part about having epilepsy? Accepting it. Sometimes it feels like you don’t really know that you have it. It’s not really something that you can put your finger on. It’ s not like having a cold, where you have sneezes and sniffles. It’s not knowing what you’ve got. It’s hard to pin down. It’s not like you can say, “Well, I’ve got something and I’ll get over it.” You don’t know when you’ll get over it. Epilepsy is just much different.

What is one of your greatest successes despite having epilepsy? I have a different outlook on life. For some reason, the seizure disorder, lousy as it may be, provides me with a different way of looking at things. I would say that it provides me with the positive. I’ve been doing art all my life. That’s definitely one of the positives. I’ve always done artwork in one form or another. I do my best to give back to the society in which I live through my art.

How do you manage your epilepsy? I take pills, of course. I didn’t start this way, but I have somehow wound up with a very supportive group of people here in Boulder. It’s just a group of friends who watch after me, so to speak. I’m very glad for them. I guess I realized early on that I couldn’t watch over myself and I’d have to get people to watch over me. I don’t have any qualms about doing that.

What advice do you have for people who are newly diagnosed? Relax. You’re going to get through it after every seizure. You’re going to put yourself back together. It worries me when people who are freshly diagnosed say, “Oh my goodness, I’m never going to have a real life again.” It scares me to death, because they will.

What do you want others to know about epilepsy? They called epilepsy “the blessed disease” because they believed people were talking to the gods. That was one of the things that helped me adjust to having epilepsy, was the idea that I might be talking to the gods. It’s not the end of the world. Seizure disorders vary from person to person. There’s no reason to think you can’t do things. I think I’m a good example of that. I’ve always just said “Well, I’m going to go do things.” And I’ve done them. Epilepsy never prevented me from doing anything I wanted. You can always find reasons not to do things. You can say that the seizure disorder is the reason you cannot do anything. The fact is, if you twist it the right way, the seizure disorder is the very reason you CAN do many things.