Date with Diversity

I am 36 years old, I have a 19 year old son, I work for the Government of Canada, and I run my own personal training business. It wasn’t easy getting to this point in my life and I have faced many challenges due to medical difficulties. I was diagnosed with hydrocephalus when I was 6 months old and had three brain surgeries; I almost didn’t make it through. The hydrocephalus returned when I was 13 years old and the scar tissue caused by multiple operations lead to my epilepsy diagnosis at the age of 17. I would have up as many 20 seizures a day and this went on for years; I subsequently had many more brain surgeries. Then along with nutrition (Omega 3 fish oil) and exercise, I have been able to get my seizures under control and I am now closing in on 11 years seizure free.

My biggest challenge in college, work, or any other part of my life has always been that people are intimidated by my condition and are not educated enough on how to work with someone with epilepsy. Everywhere I worked I was told that I didn’t have to tell anyone about my condition so that I wouldn’t scare them. Many people with epilepsy or many other medical conditions will hide them at work because they are afraid of the reaction they will get.  I saw it completely differently; I didn’t want to be in anyone’s office or in class with anyone that would be overwhelmed if I went into a seizure. For that reason, everywhere I have ever worked or gone to school I have volunteered to do an information session for my co-workers or classmates to help them become more comfortable with my situation. I have cognitive difficulties caused from the brain surgeries as well; this is also something people with these kinds of conditions will hide because they are worried the way they learn will make others think differently of them. I approached my professors and mangers, explained the situation and had a fantastic response. They were so accepting and willing to work with me. That was a hundred percent the opposite response of what I expected and many people with disabilities or medical conditions need to know that the world doesn’t hate us, it accepts us and there are many wonderful people that are willing to think outside the box and work with us. This has become part of my mission statement as a personal trainer. Medical conditions can often be something that intimidate personal trainers, and at times are just be something that they don’t want to deal with. I’m the opposite; I’m on a mission to work with and help as many people as I can with these conditions whether it’s in the gym, at work or anywhere else in their lives. I have clients that are willing and wanting to exercise, but often express difficulties in expressing their situation when going for interviews or when starting a new job.

No one should have to hide anything or feel fear in their workplace. We are all different and we can all work together. This issue has come a long way, but there is still a lot of work to do to get everyone on an equal playing field.

I am honoured to have been invited to speak again at the Ottawa Carleton District School Board "Date with Diversity: Journeying from Diversity to Equity" on May 14th, 2019 at Canterbury High School. Here is my bio that I provided them along with a sneak peek of what I'll be talking about.