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My Epilepsy Story – Skating on Thin Ice

Olivia Rowswell's picture
Wed, 2019-05-15 09:46 -- Olivia Rowswell
Very few people have more interests and talents than 20-year-old Olivia Rowswell. She has participated in ice skating, ballet, tap, jazz, musical theatre, gymnastics, horse riding, karate, tennis, badminton, swimming, singing, piano, violin and Girl Scouts.
Olivia is up and out the door at 7:30am four days a week. She is dedicated to completing her courses at TAFE and Anglicare. She also works three hours a week at Kmart.
This wasn’t always the case for Olivia. As a person living with Tuberous Sclerosis Complex, a genetic cause of epilepsy, Olivia experienced a great deal of isolation.
“These activities kept me busy and excited to try something new. Having all these experiences gave me confidence and the opportunity to meet new friends both in the community and at school.”
Olivia’s greatest talent lies in ice-skating, a sport not for the feint hearted. She talks about her first experience and how she became hooked on skating.
“By chance on a rainy and miserable day in October 2012, we saw an advertisement for Caloundra Rollerdrome On Ice. We went out of curiosity to see what it was about. I was a bit puzzled at what made people like this activity, sliding around with the rented penguin provided by the rink and by the end of the session I felt I had given it a good go but it wasn’t for me.” 
“I was somehow roped in to another session with a family friend and it clicked. I grew more interested in learning and mastering ice and roller-skating. I have been a skating fanatic ever since. I even did roller derby for a year or two (non-contact of course). I joined my synchronised ice skating team last year and still continue to work at mastering roller skating.”
Olivia’s involvement with ice skating has helped her to meet and associate with people from all walks of life. As a person living with epilepsy, it is important being in a supportive environment that focuses on her ability.
“I have found there’s a safety net that comes from relationships with a broad variety of people in my synchronised ice skating team, Evolution. There are paramedics, general practitioners, specialists, engineers, lawyers, teachers, researchers, pathologists and nurses! My coach and team see me as a skater that contributes to the overall success of the team. They acknowledge my disability but do not see it as limiting my contribution. They are always looking out for me and awaiting my return to skating after seizures and hospitalisations.” 
“In fact, eight months after one of these hospitalisations and having to learn to walk and talk again, I was competing at Nationals 2018 for the first time with the team.”
Despite Olivia’s success in ice-skating, she still struggles with TSC, epilepsy and the impact of seizures on her life.
“I present with all the ‘hallmarks’ of TSC. My physical traits include non-cancerous tumours on the brain, growths on the heart, kidneys, back of eyes and skin, and pitting of teeth. My symptoms include epilepsy and intellectual impairment. All these different aspects of TSC mean I have a lot of specialists and scans to keep an eye on the growths.”
“Most people learn to walk and talk once in their life, I have had to learn a number of times.”
Olivia is happy to credit her success to the many people that have helped and supported her throughout her journey with epilepsy.
“I believe that being connected to people is the best thing to get me through my bad days. I love my support team of doctors, Epilepsy Queensland, work colleagues at Kmart, skating team Evolution, family and friends. They help me realise that I have the strength to overcome challenges. It made it easier to face learning to regain the skills I lost due to a seizure by knowing that others have had to do the same. I also found inspiration in Ariana Berlin’s story as told in “Full Out”. We used the movie soundtrack to motivate me in my physiotherapy sessions as part of my rehabilitation following a seizure.”
In recent years, Epilepsy Queensland has supported Olivia through her NDIS application and provided a support network.
“The brilliant Leonie has been instrumental in my NDIS plan helping me through the planning process, the plan meeting itself and with using my plan to access the supports I need.”  
“I had my first purple day this year and it was an awesome day. I loved the purple lights on Brisbane landmarks it made me feel recognised by my city. It was nice to meet new people and share stories. It is already in my calendar for next year. I’m hungry just thinking about the cupcakes with purple icing and lollies.”
We hope that one day we can claim that we supported the great Olivia Roswell, professional skater through her journey with epilepsy.
“Skating is the joy of my life. I strive to be an amazing athlete and represent my country someday, which is why no matter what skating disciple I train for I give it everything I have.”
If you would like to share your story to help raise awareness and understanding of epilepsy please contact us on 1300 852 853 or