By age 22, during her last semester at Niagara University, she was experiencing 30 seizures a day.
“It was the darkest time of my life. I felt like I was locked in my own body. There were so many things that I wanted to do and I knew that I was capable of doing, but my life was controlled by my condition,” Marano said.
After years of failed attempts trying different medications and seeing numerous doctors, Marano thought finding a cure was impossible. In 2006, she made the trip to Ohio’s Cleveland Clinic hoping to discover the source of her seizures. While specialists at the clinic warned her that she was possibly signing herself up to be a stroke victim since testing and surgery would require going near the language center of her brain, Marano was set on remedying her spells no matter the risk.
“I couldn’t do it anymore. I had isolated myself from all of my friends and my condition had reached the point to where it was closing off my airways with each spasm,” she said.
After a month of tests, the doctor discovered a tumor on her brain. One year later, the tumor was removed, along with part of her left frontal lobe. It has taken Marano five years to feel comfortable talking about her surgery, and she now realizes that prior to the operation, she’d been hiding her medical condition.
“I look back now and realize that I was very secretive about it because it didn’t look like a convulsion type seizure, it was more of a five-second long tightening of my muscles, so I would blame it on sports cramps or nerve pain,” she said. “I just wanted to be normal, but the looks I would get broke my heart. People didn’t know how to respond. I felt really judged and disabled.”
Now 27 and completely seizure free, Marano is on a career path that will allow her to pay forward the same personalized medical care that altered her life for the better. She is currently a registered neurology nurse at Upstate University Hospital and will graduate from SUNY Upstate Medical University’s Nurse Practitioner Program this spring. She aspires to one day work at the Cleveland Clinic Neurological Institute.
Last September, she married the man of her dreams, Frank Marano, after a two-and-a-half-year engagement. The two were joined at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Otisco (a church that her paternal grandfather helped build) with a reception at Turning Stone Resort and Casino.
“I never thought I’d have this life. I never thought I’d get married, have a career, have a house,” she said. “Anytime I have a bad day at work or I’m really stressed out about something, I remind myself that this is the best stress I’ve ever had. I appreciate every day and every person I come into contact with.”
By Courtney Rae Kasper