Sheena and Ariana

Meet Sheena and Ariana, a mother-daughter duo who have harnessed the joy of cheerleading to overcome Ariana's epilepsy.

Sheena (Ariana's mother), what's a day in your life?

Sheena: "I'm a mum of 4, so very  busy. Three out of four of my girls, including Ariana, actually also have asthma. 


At the moment, they go to school as much as can, and I work full time. I am only just recently working from home so very busy."



What has the experience been with Ariana's epilepsy?

Sheena: "With Ariana's epilepsy, her seizures are on and off and have been since she was 18 months old. But now her seizures are controlled by her medication. She had that every morning and every night. Since she's been on that, it's been a huge difference to her life. 


She's only had one episode she's been on medication, which was this year and it was at cheerleading. But before then, we would never know when she would have one. She had them at school, at home, when I've not been home, and her older sisters have been looking after her. 


[The medication] has affected her learning though, like the seizures, so she is quite behind compared to her other sisters. It's just that fear of her having [another seizure] even though she's on medication... it's just not fun."



Ariana, what is it like having epilepsy?

Ariana: "I feel funny."


Sheena: "As she's gotten older, she's actually been in tune to know when she's going to have a seizure. The last few times she's said to us "I'm going to have a seizure", and then she'll have one. She'll also have absent seizures as well where all of a sudden, you can't get her attention. She's there but not there.


She has triggers such as when she's tired or not well. There has been times where she's perfectly well. Even her first one, where she just woke up in the morning and was all happy one second, and the next she had a seizure. When she was younger, she would stop breathing as well. It was quite scary."



And Ariana, how do you feel about taking your medication regularly?

Ariana: "I'm fine."



Being at school or with friends, was there a time where you felt different because of epilepsy?

Ariana: "No."


Sheena: "I think her friends are quite embracing because of differences. I've never had any issues . Even when her best friend saw her have a seizure, she had to run and alert the principal. Ariana's friend was quite proud of herself that she was able to help Ariana, so her friend's caring. 


I've never known of any issues. It's been more with the adults... kids are quite embracing of differences."



Sheena, what motivates you to support Epilepsy WA's cause?

Sheena: "It actually started with her cheerleading club. The team that they're in, every team has to pick a charity to work with. I told all the mums that she has epilepsy, and I suggested "how about we do some support work with Epilepsy WA?" 


This is because the cause is close to our hearts."



And how did you and Ariana get into cheerleading?

Sheena: "We kind of fell into it, didn't we Ariana, because you wanted to do dancing remember? And then we saw the cheerleading advertisement on Facebook and we thought, let's see how we go. And then you tried it and then what happened?"


Ariana: "I got better and better."


Sheena: "And then now you love it now don't you?"



What do you like about cheerleading, Ariana?

Sheena: "You like doing tricks?"


Ariana: "Yeah."


Sheena: "And your friends?"


Ariana: "Yeah."


Sheena: "And it's made you more confident, hasn't it?"


Ariana: *nods*


Sheena: "We were very protective of Ariana until she started cheerleading, then her confidence grew - and we were able to let go a bit and realise she's not as fragile as we think she is because of her condition. 


She can go out and do these things, and it fulfils her life."



Sheena, what's the most fulfilling aspect of your role as a mother?

Sheena: "Supporting Ariana, and making her realise it's OK to talk about it. It's OK to share with friends. She's even well educated herself about it; with all my kids, they're well educated. She reminds me that she has to have her medication, so it's not a negative thing with us - it's just life."



What is the most common misconception people have of epilepsy?

Sheena: "I feel like - especially with Ariana's teachers - some of them have been fearful to have her in their class because of her epilepsy. 


It's just that people fear what they are going to do if she has a seizure, or what course of action they need to take. I kind of educate everyone as I do with my kids and make it so they can be comfortable with it - especially now as Ariana's on medication."



What would Purple Laces Month do for you and Ariana?

Sheena: "It would benefit us, obviously for Ariana to be able to raise awareness. She's trying to share that with her cheerleading club. For them to be able to get involved, for them to be able to do stuff... it raises that awareness and it goes beyond their club and out to the community - so it's very important for us.


A greater understanding of epilepsy would achieve people not being fearful to be around people with epilepsy. People would know how to help when someone is having a seizure - because it can happen anywhere for any reason. So being able to raise awareness is so imperative.


Maybe you could even wear Purple Laces at school Ariana. Do you reckon school would let you do a day maybe? And then you could tell your story. Do you reckon you'd be brave enough to do that?


She's a bit shy."



Thank you for your support!


For more information, visit the official Epilepsy WA website here.


Follow the Epilepsy WA Facebook page here.