Community & Current Events

2014 Me to We Winner: Caitlin Shaw

By: David Eddie

Photography by Kristine Brevik Author: Canadian Living Credits: Photography by Kristine Brevik

Community & Current Events

2014 Me to We Winner: Caitlin Shaw

By: David Eddie
Name: Caitlin Shaw
Where she's from: Summerland, B.C.
Award: Youth in action, 13 to 17
Contribution: She cofounded the Epilepsy Awareness Squad, an organization aimed at raising epilepsy awareness.
Where would I like to be in 10 years: "I hope to travel the world and explore and inspire people the same way that so many wonderful people have inspired me."

Prince had it as a child. Florence (Flo Jo) Griffith Joyner—once considered the fastest woman alive—had it. Yet many of us don't pay much thought to epilepsy these days. Caitlin Shaw and her friend Daniel Nixon are out to change that with the Epilepsy Awareness Squad, which is aimed at raising the profile of epilepsy and eradicating the stigma attached to it.

Caitlin was diagnosed with epilepsy, the neurological condition marked by seizures, as a young child in North Vancouver, B.C. But she says it's not for herself that she wanted to raise awareness. It was during a hospital checkup to determine whether she still had epilepsy—after a seizure-free two years—that she encountered other people with the condition. That's when she decided to take action.

"You see these kids and they have so many seizures every day. I wanted to do something,” remembers Caitlin, who has faced discrimination because of her efforts. When people see the epilepsy awareness campaigns on her reÌ�sumeÌ�, “they don't get back to me,” she says. But that hasn't stopped her.

Though she didn't tell many of her friends about her condition until she was in Grade 9, Caitlin, who's now off medication and keeps seizures at bay with a ketogenic diet (a strict low-carb, medium- protein, high-fat diet, which appears to benefit some epileptics, especially young people) is glad to have finally opened up.

"I have better relationships with people. I've started public speaking, which I never would have done on meds," she says. But most of all, Caitlin feels that, since becoming more candid about her condition, she's become more open to others and their secrets. "The invisible weaknesses people have? I wouldn't view them as weaknesses, just as quirks, and I encourage everyone to talk about them."

Amen. We all have "invisible weaknesses," right? Caitlin Shaw is making the world a better place, one where we celebrate our quirks rather than be embarrassed by them.

For more inspirational pieces like Caitlin's, check out our 2014 Me to We Awards.

This story was originally titled "Caitlin Shaw" in the October 2014 issue.

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2014 Me to We Winner: Caitlin Shaw

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