Michael was diagnosed with epilepsy as a result of two brain surgeries in 1969, but has been seizure-free since 1998. He experienced tonic-clonic seizures where he lost all consciousness.
“Strangely enough, I can remember just about every one of them (seizures). One thing that annoyed me over the years was being told I couldn’t do things because I had epilepsy. I tried to always live like it didn’t exist. It was hard.”
When reflecting on his childhood, Michael remembers the feeling of nausea he experienced before a seizure. He recalls an incident in the primary school yard. Upon climbing to the top of the tallest slide, he felt a seizure coming on.
“As a caution, I held onto one rail and sat on the other. Next minute, I found myself on my hands and knees at the bottom of the stairs. (My peers) were asking if I was okay but I couldn’t speak. My brother was close by and they called him over. He could see in my face what was wrong. I was lucky that my parents were teachers at the school and my brother took me to them. I was taken to the sick room where my mother kept checking on me. I guess I was lucky they were close by.”
In his early 20s, Michael began gaining more independence. He began full-time work as a hotel night auditor until a seizure brought an end to his employment.
“I was on the job and a staff member called. But I had just been through a seizure and didn’t quite have my speech back. I was able to communicate with her and she asked what was wrong. I told her I just had a seizure. A few days after that, I was relieved of my job because they thought it was dangerous. It felt like the rug had been pulled from under my feet.”
Throughout his 20s, after many setbacks, Michael was determined to break down the stigma associated with epilepsy. He pursued a number of physical challenges in the United States and Canada, climbing the Chilkoot Pass twice, running 16 and 14 mile legs of the Klondike Road Relay and canoeing the Pelly River. Michael also took up competitive shooting, taking part in the 1982 Arctic Winter Games in Fairbanks, Alaska. By 2007, he had won his seventh NSW state title in pistol silhouette shooting. Despite having to give up the sport due to a lower back injury, Michael continued to cycle with the dream of taking on the Alaska Highway.
In 2019, having recovered from his back injury, Michael decided to begin training to make his dream a reality. After having been delayed by COVID, Michael is now ready to begin pedalling.
This month, he will begin riding from Anchorage, Alaska to Victoria, Vancouver Island, with a few detours along the way, all in support of the Epilepsy Foundation and people living with epilepsy.
“I will be starting in Anchorage Alaska and go to Dawson City via Fairbanks and Tok, then up to the Arctic Circle and back on the Dempster Highway. From there I will go through Whitehorse to Watson Lake and down to Dawson Creek (mile 0 of the Alaska Highway). Then I will then head down through Prince George to Vancouver to Victoria on Vancouver Island where I will visit my family.”
Michael’s total distance travelled will be roughly 5,000km.
“My aim is not just to prove to myself that I can do it and that I have defeated epilepsy but to also raise funds for the Epilepsy Foundation to support research and help others dealing with epilepsy. I have been through it and have seen how devastating it can be to one’s life and dreams. Please show your support.”
Show your support for Michael by donating to his fundraising page. Visit https://bit.ly/3Xm9qYP