Category: Falling Down Funny BookMark HawkinsSeizures Comments: 8 comments

Let me start by saying that breast cancer is a horrible disease and I feel badly for anyone who has it or gets it. I wrote that headline to get your attention. But I do have a reason for starting to turn on “Breast Cancer Awareness Month” and I know I am not alone.

I have epilepsy. I have been trying to promote epilepsy awareness for some time and it often feels like an uphill battle. Not only do people not really seem to care about epilepsy, but quite the opposite: many seem to have something against it.

I am not going to go into the recent story of Coach Jerry Kill, the University of Minnesota football coach who had a seizure during a game and was rewarded with calls for his removal. It was a horrible story but I already wrote my opinion on the whole sorry episode here ( Suffice it to say that the story finally ended when the coach decided to take a leave of absence. Even people who wrote comments of support seemed to think he was better off stepping down. “Good call,” the comments say. “Step back and assume a slightly lesser role with less stress.” “For everyone’s sake he should resign.” “It’s time to retire.” “Happy to see the coach do the right thing.” (

People sure are supportive of epileptics as long as they “go away.”

People don’t even want to listen when we are trying to educate them of the realities of seizures. Epilepsy is not “sexy.” It’s not a “cool” disease. When we are not dying (which we are, by the way. In greater numbers than breast cancer, according to the epilepsy foundation: we look absolutely fine. We probably seem better than fine because as a group we don’t normally like to talk about seizures. We like to pretend that everything is ok. “That seizure might be the last one. Forget about it. I sure am.” That’s the prevailing attitude.

But it’s not that we don’t care about epilepsy because obviously we do. We just fell down and whacked our head on a table. We just peed our pants. We just embarrassed ourselves in front of everyone we know. We just don’t want to spend our days talking about it. We want to move on with our lives. But we certainly care! We want a stop to this! We want there to be a cure! It’s just that we understand that as many as one in three epileptics will never be controlled (

Besides, what we find when we talk about it is that the world around us is collectively unconcerned with our kind. And this hallowed “Breast Cancer Awareness Month,” just brought that all home to me:

According to the last government report ( lung cancer, the leading cancer killer in the United States got $233 million dollars from the NIH. Pancreatic cancer kills as many people as breast cancer and they got $127 million. Epilepsy also got $127 million. Breast cancer got $800 million dollars from the NIH. Plus the approximately one hundred million in donations discussed in their financial report ( That’s nine hundred million dollars. And they admit, in that same statement, that only about twenty percent of that money actually gets spent on “finding a cure.” Sixty-three million got spent on “administration.” That’s half of what pancreatic cancer and epilepsy got altogether. They have so much money they spend that on salaries and office supplies (the CEO took home almost $700,000.

Stop sending me letters and requests reminding me about all of the money that breast cancer needs. Of COURSE it needs money. People are dying from breast cancer and that’s horrible. Yet more people are dying from lung cancer, pancreatic cancer and epilepsy. None of us are getting the money we need because everyone is running around, covering the world in pink ribbons and feeling great about themselves because they are saving all of the women from getting breast cancer. It has gotten so bad that any business, school or organization NOT taking time out to run a “breast cancer” event is seen as uncaring.

What about all of the other charities much more in need of money? “Sorry. We already did our part this year. We support breast cancer.” Yeah. I hear you. Screw lung cancer. Screw pancreatic cancer. And screw the epileptics, too. As Jerry Souhan, writing in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, so eloquently said, “No one…should be rewarded with the sight of a middle-aged man writhing on the ground.” I guess that’s how everyone feels about all of the other diseases in the world. Women’s breasts are great and we need to save them. But those suffering from the “ugly” diseases are on their own.


  • Theresa  says:

    I love this, and I agree whole heartedly.

    Thank you for writing. I enjoy it.

  • Sam  says:

    People just like to talk about breasts. Famous women got breast cancer and wanted the right to talk about their mastectomy experiences openly. This is good for diseases if it generalizes, but not so much if it is slow. And no one wants to see or hear the life of someone who had a lobectomy, or who has tried ten drugs and none work.

  • Sherri Lynn N.  says:

    Thank you. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for writing this. The “alone” feeling I had has now been replaced with some comfort knowing others feel the same way (and are just as scared & upset). I’ve tried my best for years to raise awareness & people – including family & friends – look at me as if I’m a leper. I’ve yet to see people out with cans raising funds in front of the super market for those suffering with Epilepsy. ..only the most known and “important” diseases/disorders get acknowledged it seems. It’s heartbreaking. (But) thanks to your article, I have renewed faith. Again, thank you & let’s kick some Epilepsy arse, eh?

    • Mark Hawkins  says:

      very kind of you for commenting…thank you…

      and you are NOT alone…seizure patients/epileptics just tend to be very quiet because of the stigma involved – which is why i started talking about epilepsy and writing the blog in the first place…

      thank you for your kind words…and please share the blog – get the word out there…

      again – thank you…


      • Brenda Porraro  says:

        This was amazing. How can we start some sort of cause for epilepsy? November is the month but what can we do raise awareness that we are not freaks, we can actually have jobs and gasp, we can drive, and seizures don’t make us freaks or dangerous people. I am deeply disturbed by the numbers you’ve posted for breast cancer, and yes of course it is terrible but it’s like a “cool” cancer, even cop cars get pinked up. Something is very wrong. People need to get involved. I love this blog. We need to spread this!!!

        • Mark Hawkins  says:

          Thanks for your kind words, Brenda.

          I wish I knew something we could do to raise awareness. For my part, I am a standup comedian and I talk about it onstage and talk to people after the show, but as for some sort of national campaign, your guess is as good as mine. If you come up with something good, let me know.

          The numbers here are solid (and footnoted as to my sources), but to be fair they are a touch out of date. I am sure there are new numbers – but they are have been pretty consistent for the last few years. I am sure they are not that far off.

          Thanks again for taking the time.


        • B.Hammer  says:

          Before trying to raise public awareness, those with epilepsy should make a real concerted effort to learn as much as possible about the disease themselves and then try to raise the level of education and awareness of those in their own household. Before going outward, start inward. First get the full support of those within your own home by sharing with them exactly how the disease makes you feel physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Gaining the support of those who are closest to you and care the most about you FIRST, will provide the necessary foot soliders to start the movement you’re looking for. The general public doesn’t care enough about epilepsy bc they’re in the dark about the disease. Don’t EXPECT those who love you to do their own research and ask you any questions about it. If you’re not speaking about it, if you’re not sharing how the disease affects you, your loved ones will just assume it’s not nearly as harmful to you as it truly is. Those with the disease need to come out of the closet so to speak and show the world who you are and how the disease affects your life and the lives of those around you. But to do that is scary. You need the support of those who love you and care deeply about you to be in your corner before facing the very real fear of going more public. Help them to understand you and the disease and they will stand on the front lines with you everyday of the week and twice on Sunday. I’m sorry I never got the chance to do more for someone with epilepsy I loved dearly. Had she helped make me more aware, I woulda done whatever it took to help raise awareness and help others with the disease. I was too freightened by what I didn’t know about eplipsy to do more on my own and turned a blind eye as to pretend like it didn’t exist in my home. Start with those closest to you. Help them help you. Eventually the general public will get the message. Best of luck.

          • Mark Hawkins  says:

            It is a very valid point. Thanks for taking the time and sorry for your loss, Brenda.

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