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Diane Van Deren Diane Van Deren (Mark Phillips)

Diane Van Deren is one of the best ultra-runners in the world, and it all started with a seizure. 

For Diane, a charming mother of three, daily life is a struggle. But as soon as she steps outdoors, she's capable of amazing feats. She can run for days on end with no sleep, covering hundreds of miles in extreme conditions. Diane explains how her disability gave rise to such an extraordinary ability, and reporter Mark Phillips heads to Colorado to get to know Diane, and try to figure out what makes her so unstoppable.

Comments [16]

Sheri from Twin Cities, MN

Thank you for this story. We don't all achieve the level of success and self awareness that Diane has. But it felt good to have some of the journey documented. I related to waking up one day to the new word 'Epilepsy' which changes your life,and the surreal experience of being in a monitoring ward with doctors cheering on a seizure.

For me, post-surgery was a process of trying to find wholeness and identity. Who am I without this chronic illness? I am not the person who I was before it. Or the person with it. Now who am I?

Dec. 02 2017 04:45 PM
Eric Pass

@Rita, The host says, First in "Womens" in the Canadian Death Race. He said it correctly. She was first in Womens in 2008. Alissa St. Laurent became the first woman to win the Canadian Death Race overall in 2015.

Aug. 17 2015 10:39 PM

Someone is wrong here: Did the host say she was the first woman to win the Death Race? That only happened this summer, and the overall winner was a young woman named Alissa St. Laurent.

Aug. 16 2015 07:06 PM
Terri from Mt. Vernon

Interesting story to listen to. I had my 1st seizure that my parents knew of at 20 months old. Doctors tried various medicines for me, but none worked well. They located the origin of my seizures in the right temporal lobe using EEG and CAT and MRI scans and other tests and I had two surgeries (ages 8 and 9), then radiation therapy. Turns out I had a brain tumor that was mostly removed. I am glad not to have seizures since then.

Aug. 16 2015 04:45 PM
CMP from San Diego

It's continually heartbreaking to hear of people still allowing themselves to be subjected to dangerous profit driven drugs and horrifying surgeries when nature has provided what we need to heal. She claims to have tried everything, but I doubt she tried high CBD cannabis oil which has of course been downplayed, ignored, slandered and ultimately outlawed by the pyramid of medical industry profiteers. I'm so sorry she suffered what very well may have been been avoided... but we'll never know.

Aug. 15 2015 06:15 PM
ellen from Manhattan

The story about Diane Van Deren is amazing, and I do realize this is her "brain story," in keeping with the theme. But with impaired memory, time sense and spatial deficits, to me the story is incomplete without knowing a little about adjustments her family has made and their thoughts about her surgery. We know about one part of her life...her brain and her courage...but she's a wife and a mother and it would have been good to hear how those things are going.

Aug. 15 2015 01:23 PM
Scott from Charlotte

Very neat story. Those with epilepsy should read the Gut and Psychology Syndrome book. It will explain the cause and how to cure it.

Aug. 14 2015 09:30 PM
Ryan from Pittsfield, MA

This story changed my life.

Feb. 23 2015 02:26 PM
Crystal Kinney from Lansing MI from Lansing mi

I had the pleaser of bumping in to Diane Van Deren while on the River Trails today. And wow what an amazing woman she is!!! She inspired and lifted my spirt. Running as been my (go to) in so many ways. Meeting her and talking with her made my day :) I only wish we could have talked longer :) thank you for the great company!!!!!!

Apr. 20 2014 02:57 PM

Warning. Surgery for epilepsy does not always work. We are dealing with the aftermath of a brain surgery to "cure" epilepsy. Seizures may have been better.

Mar. 14 2014 01:22 AM
Guy Fawkes

To the person mentioning strokes: Strokes and epilepsy are not comparable. A stroke is a symptom more like a car accident or heart attack (any event causing injury with a known cause). Epilepsy is a disease, and is there from the moment of the first seizure for the rest of one's life, and the cause is mostly unknown. A stroke and a seizure are comparable, except epileptics will have seizures at some interval for the rest or entirety of their natural lives.

I understand the need to relate to someone sharing a similar experience, but don't comment on an article by saying "I'm disappointed you aren't talking about my problems" and ignore the point of the article.

Mar. 06 2014 04:38 PM
Andrea Vazquez

I was listening to the story of the woman who has epilepsy. I must! tell
mine. I have epilepsy and i was in and out of emergency rooms for three years!! I did not have any warning, i would just faint. Unfortunately medication did not work. I had several test and i was very lucky that
the doctors found out exactly what part of my brain that was causing my
seizures. I actually had double! brain surgery. To much to explain but
i have been seizure free since the surgery and it's two years now. I feel
happy and healthy! I want any one out there that has a chance to be seizure free having epilepsy brain surgery to GO FOR IT!!!!! IT WORKS!!!!!

Oct. 08 2013 07:57 PM
CRYSTAL JACKSON from Huntington Beach, Ca

How funny. I had a brain tumor in the similar area. I keep time with a timer. Otherwise, I count, count of ten for this job, count of 20 for this job, 1,2,3,4, 1,2,3,4 Photography helps me with time...tick, tick, tick, developer, stopbath, fix, wash. over and over. I thought I was the only one who is stuck in Groundhog Day. there is no yesterday, there is no tomorrow, only right now.

Jun. 25 2012 12:08 PM
Aaron from Portsmouth

I just happened to have the radio on when this program was airing and became riveted as the story was introduced. I had to hear it in its entirety because it reflects my situation. Since childhood I've been afflicted by disorder in a milder form; but as I got to college age, it gradually worsened. I didn't even know the name of the disorder until my first major seizure off-campus which required me to be rushed to the infirmary. It was then that I learned the name of the condition. I was able to live a normal life except on occasion, during REM sleep, I would have a seizure. How did I know I had a seizure? By a combination of a searing headache when I woke up; a sense of disorientation; a recollection of an unusually strange sensation I had while dreaming; and seeing a pool of saliva at the side of my bed. After getting married, my ex-wife would tell me of my odd behaviour during sleep the next morning which usually included some thrashing movements. But for the rest of the day I would be fine with no trouble. I drove everyday w/o incident, participated in athletic activities, and showed outwardly for over 40 years, no signs of the neurological storm that sometimes would be raging within. Except, when I played basketball and tennis. Sometimes,I would go blank and either wander around on the court or just stop what I'm doing and, inexplicably to my teammates or my opponent, just sit down, or lean against the fence and pretend I'm just catching my breath. This was my way of just "riding out the storm", let it pass, and resume my activity.
But in 2010 I noticed an unusual turn of events; despite taking my medication, whenever I went walking at a brisk pace a seizure would occur, I would unknowingly drop to the ground(broke my thumb one time), get up in a state of fogginess, and resume my walk. But in 2011, it got so bad that I had an accident; after feeling the onset, I slowly veered off the road, blacked out, and hit a telephone pole, totaling my car in the process. That all occurred after having walked briskly earlier that day. Needless to say, I had to stop driving and went on a long-term medical leave from work. Subsequent battery of MRI tests during a week-long overnight stay at a hospital under the supervision of an epileptoligist revealed the trouble area--- behind the right temporal lobe. A PetScan showed in more detail an atrophied right hippocampus. Surgery was suggested, I consented, and now I'm free of the "demons", and await my doctor to send an "OK" form to the state DMV for re-instatement.

Jun. 25 2012 10:38 AM
Hillary from Seattle from Seattle, WA

This story had me sobbing in the driveway as I listened. As someone who was diagnosed two years ago with Epilepsy at the age of 29, and continues to have seizures today, I found this story heartwarming and soul touching. I am an active athlete, and consider myself very healthy; my story parallels Diane's in a myriad of ways; diet, countless attempts at medication, fitness.
Having epilepsy is like being told "chance of thunderstorms" everyday. We hold our breath and sigh with relief when we make it through a day safely. I appreciate Diane's story and the silver cloud that she found through her diagnosis and treatment, truly uplifting. Diane, you inspire me to keep fighting and find my own silver cloud.
Thank you Radiolab for raising awareness about Epilepsy and the lives affected by it sincerely your devoted listener in Seattle.

Jun. 24 2012 09:58 PM
Andrea from Seattle

I always enjoy Radiolab's angle on stories... but was a little disappointed by this one. As a person who had a brain attack a year ago, I thought you would talk about the original brain attacks--- strokes. There are plenty of charming, funny folks who have survived and are doing dandy. Many younger people are having them and can feel isolated with how invisible they become. I know it terrifies people who have not had one, but it is part of life, let's hear some of those tales in the public arena like Radiolab!

Jun. 23 2012 12:18 PM

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