Marco Lemus has lived 39 of his 44 years with epilepsy.  Some might think that living most of your life with this disorder is a curse, but Marco doesn’t look at it that way. In fact, if you ask him about it, he’ll say it is a blessing.

Growing up, his mother, Mercy Hardman, provided an amazing support system. Being diagnosed at five years old, he remembers it was hard to understand what was happening, but he is grateful for the way his mother cared for him without making it a huge deal. She taught him that epilepsy didn’t make him any less capable; it just meant that he had to be careful because his brain was a little more delicate than others. This made it easier for Marco to grasp the idea that epilepsy is something he had, not something he was.

Of course with adolescence comes immaturity, and sometimes kids can be mean. Marco’s sense of self worth was stronger though and only motivated him to try harder in school. He remembers being particularly inspired by a PSA about epilepsy awareness in the 90s, with the message being “epilepsy is not what you think it is.”  He knew he couldn’t expect people to educate themselves about epilepsy, so he decided to show them that it would not slow him down. Marco never felt ashamed, but instead was proud of who he was and what he could do. He worked for good grades and was determined to disprove the stigma that is associated with epilepsy.

It was this drive and his love for fashion that eventually led him to New York City where he quickly climbed the luxury retail sales ladder. Marco worked his way up to a top spot with Men’s Michael Kors in Saks Fifth Avenue, where he increased their revenue by over two million dollars during his time there.  A decade later, Marco’s path brought him from the Big Apple back to Louisiana, where he has been for the last seven years.

Recently, he happened to meet Epilepsy Foundation Louisiana’s Executive Director, Allison DeBattista, who encouraged him to see what the organization had to offer. Marco realized in all these years, he had never really talked to anyone else who had epilepsy before! He recalled trying to describe to his mother what a seizure felt like, but not having experienced it herself, she could never fully understand. It wasn’t until he decided to get involved with EFL that he truly grasped how beneficial the camaraderie could be.  “Just knowing that there are others out there who know what it’s like…the overwhelming support, the knowledge and confidence that everything is going to be ok… it’s priceless,” he says.

Marco has been sharing his positive energy and talents as a participant in Studio E: Art Therapy. This has been the first time in his life that he has actually sat down and interacted with other epileptic individuals and he describes the experience as “incredible.” Marco says, “having this opportunity to meet and share our stories and hear what others have overcome is truly invaluable and makes you feel like part of a tight knit community.”

Marco now lives in Old Metairie and is the Co-Sales Associate of National Sales for Globalstar, a satellite communications company. While there are occasional setbacks with stress/exhaustion related seizures, his epilepsy is and has been pretty much under control.  His “cup half full” attitude is truly inspiring and he continues to defy the stigma, striving to prove daily that epilepsy is not what you think. Marco is using this opportunity to share his past experiences and let others with epilepsy know “you are just as great as anyone else, just as awesome– just a little more unique!” He encourages people to get involved and hopes by telling his story others are encouraged to tell theirs, too.