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Jane Turner's story

Professional golfer's experience with epilepsy

Jane, aged 24, currently lives in Penicuik, Midlothian. She is a professional golfer playing on the Ladies European Access Tour Series (LEATS).  She is also a freelance graphic and web designer. Following a very successful elite amateur career, Jane made the move from amateur to professional in June 2013. Golf has always played an important role in Jane's life, having played from the age of eight and in 2007 she received a golf scholarship for Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen where she then graduated with a degree in Graphic Design. Jane has been in the Scotland golf squad since she was 14, received her first cap in 2007 for the Girls Home Internationals and moved forward from there playing for the Scottish Ladies Team in many events and for Great Britain at the World Universities Championships and the Student Olympics.
Her first seizure happened completely out of the blue at home, almost two years ago – when aged 22, Jane suddenly dropped to the floor in front of her parents and a family friend.  After a visit to A&E and several tests in the first seizure clinic, it turns out Jane has a brain tumour (DNET) that has been there since birth. The diagnosis immediately affected her life and her golf, primarily because she is not allowed to drive. Getting to training and golf practice or going to tournaments suddenly became a problem but one which her family, friends and golf colleagues were keen to help her resolve. Jane uses public transport on a day to day basis and lots of people laugh at her for taking her golf gear on the bus or train.
So far she has not had a full blown seizure on the golf course. In fact, now that Jane's epilepsy is mostly under control through medication she is only likely to have absences seizures. She can blank out for 5-60 seconds, cannot speak and her memory is affected, and these same things happen to her following and recovering from a full seizure. Jane feels she is lucky at how quickly her epilepsy came under control and that her full seizures were kept to a minimum.
In January 2014, Jane’s seizures became worse, but after seeing her neurologist and surgeon, her drugs were changed and now she’s better than ever. She explained: ‘I have the option to get my tumour removed but I would only do this if I can’t keep my epilepsy under control or if there are any changes in the tumour itself.’   
Telling people has not been easy, she feared having everyone run away in case something happens to her.  Jane had never really spoken about her epilepsy publicly until just before Purple Day 2014.  She decided to create a page on her website about it ( Lots of people saw it, with links through facebook and twitter encouraging the numbers, and it attracted a huge and - more importantly - a positive response.  From being shy about it, Jane is now proud to talk about epilepsy.  She won’t let it hold her back.
This year Jane is playing her golf on both the Ladies European Tour Access Series and the Ladies Tartan Tour.
‘When I arrive at each event, I’ll tell the organisers about my epilepsy, and my golfing partners will be told about my absences, and then should one happen they will understand and know how to help me. It shouldn’t be a problem. I leave an alarm on twice a day on my iPhone so I never forget to take my medication and I wear a medical ID bracelet.'
It can be difficult getting from place to place but her family and boyfriend are very supportive.  She remarked: ‘I don’t like confrontation and so I find asking for things like lifts everyday very difficult but my friends and family are very understanding and more than willing to help.  Having seizures has affected me a bit in terms of going out socially. The thought of having a seizure again in public is awful.’ (Jane had two in Edinburgh town centre when shopping in the first few months after her diagnosis).

‘I don’t really go out and drink like many other people my age as I've been warned that it could affect my epilepsy. My friends don’t make it difficult for me about this and are more than happy to arrange other things. My family and boyfriend have been very supportive too and for that I can't thank them enough. I know that my epilepsy has been difficult for me to come to terms with but I also realise that it must be difficult for the people around me when they see me having a seizure and also see the general impact it has on my life.  I feel bad for my boyfriend - we hadn't been together that long when my epilepsy started - so it must have been a shock but he’s still with me two years on!'
'The thing is that I am more comfortable with my epilepsy now and I’m glad I’ve got other people talking about it. I was so embarrassed to at first, but I didn’t have any other choice than to get over that and to man up if I wanted to keep moving forward with my life. I've accepted that having epilepsy makes me different and that I’m not like everyone else. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, and having epilepsy doesn’t have to make your life less enjoyable and you can still excel.’