By her early teens, former S Club Juniors star Stacey McClean had already plenty of life experiences under her belt – from enjoying many Top 10 hits to playing packed-out arenas. But nothing could have prepared the Blackpool-born star for what was about to come next as she reached her twenties. In 2014, Stacey was devastated to learn her mum Leanne had been diagnosed with epilepsy. Here she explains exactly why it’s a cause so close to her heart and why she is so proud to be Epilepsy Action’s ambassador.
A lot to learn
“My mum’s epilepsy has opened up a whole new world I never knew existed. I find it quite shocking that 87 people are diagnosed every single day, and yet there is still so much misunderstanding about epilepsy. It’s an invisible condition which affects people’s lives in so many ways, from their home and work life to everyday social situations. I want to help people understand that epilepsy is nothing to be ashamed about, it’s a way of life that is just a bit different. If I can help other people understand more about epilepsy so people with the condition can live the life they deserve, I’ll be happy.
“Before my mum’s diagnosis, I probably knew next to nothing about epilepsy. Epilepsy Action does such a fantastic job in helping people with expert advice, information and support when they need it most. I have met some amazing people, heard amazing stories of bravery and I am still learning about the condition, in order to help spread the word and to work towards epilepsy being a condition everyone is aware of.”
Out of the blue
Stacey’s mum had her first seizure at work in 2014 and was later diagnosed with epilepsy at the age of 45. Stacey said this has significantly impacted on her whole family. “Our lives changed forever when my mum was diagnosed with epilepsy. It came out of the blue – we had no warning or history of the condition in the family. My mum is a strong, independent person and for her to not know when a seizure is going to strike has been the hardest part. Having shared this journey with her and seeing everything she has been through, regardless of her seizures has inspired me to help others out there living with epilepsy, as well as change the perceptions and stigma attached to the condition.”
Stacey said she’ll never forget the first time she saw her mum have a seizure while shopping in the Boxing Day sales in her home-town of Blackpool. “Even after being told what to do if a person has a seizure, everything that my mum told me just completely left my head. Everyone was crowding round. Some people were trying to help but others were just hovering around, which made the situation worse. There was someone from St John Ambulance walking past us when it happened, so he was really helpful. But seeing someone you love, especially your mum, being in that state, was just awful. It still upsets me when I think about it.”
She continued: “It’s very likely you know or know of someone with epilepsy. For me, it only took a few moments to learn about how to react if my mum ever had a seizure with me and we were alone. This can potentially save a life and can also help your family member or friend to feel more at ease, instead of feeling like a burden.”
More than just seizures
Epilepsy Action chief executive Philip Lee said: “We are delighted to welcome Stacey McClean on board as our ambassador. She has experienced first-hand the devastating impact an epilepsy diagnosis can have on an individual’s life and that of their loved ones. Epilepsy is about so much more than just having seizures and it can affect anyone at any stage of their life. Stacey has spoken powerfully and passionately about her mum’s epilepsy story and we know she understands how important it is for more people to better understand this very complex condition.”