Delaney Bjork comes across as your average fifteen-year-old teenager. She smiles a lot, she is vibrant, and she is excited about her future. Right now, Delaney is having an active and fun summer break. However, she recently faced the life-changing diagnosis of epilepsy and the difficult social struggles that followed. Delaney’s seizures were the cause of hurtful bullying and a series of bad side-effect reactions to her medications. Yet she has overcome these troubles and has now grown to be a stronger person.
Delaney was born and raised in Colorado Springs, Colorado and now lives with her mother, Patsy. She is about to start her sophomore year at William J. Palmer High School, and aspires to one day become an anthropologist. This summer she is staying busy by volunteering at a cat shelter and her library’s summer reading program.
Delaney suffers from absence seizures and was diagnosed with epilepsy in the sixth grade, but believes she was actually having seizures several years before. Her seizures cause her to space out and become dizzy for about five to ten seconds. Occasionally, she will have clusters of seizures back to back. In a typical day, Delaney will experience anywhere from two to five seizures, and when they first started, they were a cause for bullying by classmates at school. Some of her teachers also accused her of not paying attention and even recommended putting her in remedial classes. As a highly intelligent student, it was very challenging for Delaney to be consistently underestimated in class, even by her teachers.
Another source of adversity arose from trying to adapt to anti-epileptic medications. Delaney has tried four different drugs, but each one gave her horrendous side effects. Delaney stopped taking her first medication after experiencing severe depression. The next medication she tried gave her a potentially fatal skin rash. Others increased her appetite, or made her nauseous. For the past five months she has been off of medications and has been trying to prevent seizures by being healthy, eating a natural diet, and staying active. So far, this seems like the best way for her to live well with epilepsy.
Doctors and Treatment
Since being diagnosed with epilepsy, Delaney has visited several neurologists, some of whom have come off as pushy. Her current neurologist, Dr. Chelsey Stillman, is much nicer and is providing a great deal of support. Delaney is particularly grateful to Dr. Stillman for her support in helping her to find alternatives to harmful medications. Twice a year, she also has to go through EEG tests. They are usually a bit stressful, but they are an important tool for monitoring her condition.
Since she has been off medications, Delaney has noticed that being active and healthy have improved the quality of her life. Delaney stays active in a variety of ways, including hiking, swimming, jogging, and playing hockey. She is proud about recently conquering the Manitou Springs Incline, a steep hiking trail near her home that has a 2,000 foot elevation gain. Delaney has discovered that she feels better when she eats healthy, natural foods—especially brain foods, such as coconut oil and avocado.
Delaney has gained a lot of support during recent years from friends and family members who accept her for who she is. She now knows that her true friends won’t tease her because of a seizure. She additionally owes gratitude to her teacher, Mr. Knox, who understood her condition and went out of his way to help her. She has also gained a lot of inspiration and courage from her aunt, Luane, who is going through her own struggles with cancer. Her parents, Patsy and Gregory, have been the biggest allies for her throughout her struggles with side effects, neurologists, bullying, and bad teachers.
Delaney is now aspiring to be an ally for other kids and teens with epilepsy in her community. She is currently organizing with the Epilepsy Foundation of Colorado to establish a meet-up group at a local restaurant for youths with epilepsy. She wants other young people with seizures to know that they have support and that they can talk to others about epilepsy.
Tips and Tricks
Delaney has found that volunteering has been really helpful for building her confidence and social skills, which she can apply to explaining her epilepsy. Taking a break from electronics and TV or computer screens is another tip that keeps her mind healthy. She explains that people struggling with epilepsy should find an outlet such as drawing, art, music, or sports. One of Delaney’s newest outlets is singing, and she is very excited about a band she recently joined with her friends.
In response to bullying, she says she has had to confront the people who have bullied her and explain her epilepsy. It’s not an easy thing to do, but people need to know that bullying someone because of their seizures is not cool. Delaney has been through a lot in the last few years, but her experiences dealing with epilepsy have made her a more mature and capable person. As Delaney puts it, “I’m not going to let epilepsy be an obstacle that stops me from what I want to do with my life.”