“I didn’t think it would be something I’d fall in love with,” says Epilepsy Toronto member Melanie Giglia on her passion for running. “I didn’t realize the greater good that would come from it. I dreaded my runs.”
What started out as a simple method to reduce stress as a seizure trigger, running has become a passion for Melanie, who ran the half-marathon as part of Team Epilepsy Toronto this year. Since taking up running over six years ago, following right temporal lobe surgery, it’s become an important part of her life.
But it hasn’t been without setbacks. During a Mother’s Day marathon in 2010 she had to pull out 5 kilometres from the finish line after running the previous 10k in absolute pain, the result of what she would later discover was a stress fracture in her leg. Her son, Terron, met her at the medical tent with a rose as a Mother’s Day gift.
For most people, an injury like that would be a major setback. For Melanie, it became an opportunity. She replaced running with swimming and later cycling. Soon, she was competing in triathlons. To date she’s completed eight half-marathons on top of Olympic-length triathlons. Terron has joined his mom and taken up running and the triathlon as well.
“If I hadn’t started running, I never would have realized the strength I have both physically and mentally,” she says.
It’s that kind of resilience that goes to the core of who Melanie is. Her seizures returned in 2012 and she’s since had another surgery. She has also faced the stigma associated with living with epilepsy; she recently received a barrage of slurs from a car-full of teenagers while training in an epilepsy shirt.
“Living with epilepsy has a way of changing everything and everyone around you. Suddenly people treat you differently, you're not doing the things you were before, and you need to exercise greater caution in everyday activities,” she says.
But none of those things has stopped her. Melanie’s run in this year’s half-marathon as a proud member of team Epilepsy Toronto also marked 180 days since her last seizure.
“Being able to run in the Scotiabank Waterfront half-marathon, as a celebration of 180 seizure-free days, reminds me of the strength, resolve, and determination I have. You draw deep when you need it the most, deeper than I ever realized was possible.”