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Op-Ed: Epileptics, Please Raise Your Hands and Stand Together!
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Op-Ed: Epileptics, Please Raise Your Hands and Stand Together!

It's Purple Day, dedicated to epilepsy awareness. This is nice. You know people who have seizure disorders, or you may have them yourself. You won't talk about it, though. You won't talk because you're ashamed.

There is no shame here. Are we ashamed of breast cancer? No. We all want to end it. Epilepsy kills as many as breast cancer. When I've mentioned this to women, they say nothing. Nada. I speak from experience. Yes, I know men get breast cancer, too. Epilepsy isn't sexist or racist. It loves all.

Breast cancer gets attention, autism gets attention, and epilepsy does not. Epileptics, please raise your hands and stand together!

"Every birth a crime, every sentence life," wrote Basil Bunting. There is no cure for epilepsy except death. No cure for epilepsy except death? I have a VNS implant and it seems to help some. The companies that make the implants are desperately attempting to prove their mettle. Big money in medicine. The implant is allegedly priced around $20K, but Kaiser Permanente charges $55K, of which the patient must pay 10 percent. There are days when I feel like death might be my Santa Claus.

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When I mentioned this to a famous neurophysicist, Dr. James Fallon, who is related to Lizzie Borden and is seen on television discussing mass murderers, he quipped, "The meat is $1.99 a pound, the charcoal 15 bucks." This physicist is also a very good friend of mine, whom I met through Jeff Dowd, the guy the Coen Brothers based "The Dude" character on in The Big Lebowski. And The Dude seems to sum up all "Knowledge" about epilepsy here:

Does that depress you? Companies are now making an implant similar to the VNS for depression.

I wish I could record a neuro's face when I explain the benefits of MMJ to them. The neuros are not allowed to recommend it... because... gosh, it's not legal everywhere, but more important, big pharma hasn't found a way to make sweet love to you with MMJ-based pills. I speak from experience.

If that isn't hilarious enough, consider hemp, which was criminalized in 1937. It was a very, very important move in the nascent War on Drugs. Hemp produces CBD, which is very helpful in the fight against epilepsy. I speak from experience.

Stop ignoring epilepsy. End your silence. Do not be ashamed. Scroll down the list of famous people who were impacted by epilepsy. You'll realize you're not alone, and in many cases, you might just have much more talent than those listed.

Ivan Suvanjieff is a co-founder of the Colorado-based PeaceJam Foundation.

Westword occasionally publishes essays and op-eds on matters of interest to metro Denver readers; find out more at editorial@westword.com.

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