Inspirational Epilepsy Stories: Mika Ikemori

  • May 18, 2023
  • 5
In this article
Mika Ikemori at a USTA event

Meet nationally ranked tennis player Mika Ikemori. She has accepted a full scholarship to play tennis at UC Davis in the coming fall and lives with epilepsy. Read her story below.

Tell us about the process to get an athletic scholarship?

At UC Davis I am undeclared in social sciences. I started the tennis recruiting process in June 2021. I had calls and conversations with many schools across the country and took visits to different colleges. I visited UC Davis in October 2021 and fell in love with it. I verbally committed to play there in January 2022. In November of that year, I signed my NLI and officially became an Aggie.

How did you start playing tennis, and do you have any tennis idols?

My parents put me in a summer camp when I was four because they thought it would be cute. I don’t really have any tennis idols, but one of my favorite tennis players growing up was Roger Federer.

Learn more: Our guide to playing tennis with epilepsy

Tell us about your epilepsy journey?

I was first diagnosed with epilepsy when I was 9 years old. The journey has been a roller coaster. I have been on several medications throughout the years and have had many seizures as well. When I was younger, between 9 and 16, my seizures were convulsive and occurred more frequently when I needed an up dose or a change in my medication. 

The convulsive seizures went away in March of 2021, but I began having very small seizures that I called “ticks” and “lulls”. They last for at most a couple of seconds. I must use a lot of energy in my brain to stop them, because if I don’t it feels like they could turn into a convulsive seizure. These small seizures have been occurring since March of 2021.

I had my first convulsive seizure in the parking lot at the end of my first team tournament. I was walking out, and I wasn’t sure what happened. All I remember was exiting the tennis center and waking up in an ambulance. After that I was diagnosed with epilepsy. I also had three seizures at school, one in the 6th grade and two in the 7th grade. 

Additionally, I had one at practice in 2021 and had to leave that day. I had forgotten to take my medication because I had a seizure that same morning. It was a hectic start to the day, so it slipped my mind. I had six seizures that day.

How do you manage your training with your epilepsy?

Tennis is my happy place, so when it comes to managing training and epilepsy, it is not difficult for me. I just power through it. There’s no other way to go about it really. I have my small seizures while I play, and I just play through it. I’m very lucky in the sense that my type of epilepsy doesn’t hold me back in life. This means that I can train like the average person would. 

The hardest part when it comes to my seizures are my matches. Because when I play matches, I must think my way through the match. When I have a bad day, my head feels clouded. I can’t think properly, and it can affect my tennis. Still, I remember I am so fortunate to be able to play these tournaments, and I continue to battle and fight for every point. 

Read more: Can you exercise with epilepsy?

Mika Ikemori playing tennis

What are you planning to do after college?

I don’t have a clear plan about what my dream is. I know I want to enjoy college as best as I can, and I am excited to meet new people. I also am curious to see what career path I will pursue. I am so excited to play on a team for four years. My dream I guess is to live life to the fullest surrounded by people I love. After college, I want to travel outside the country and possibly go to grad school depending on what I want to do career-wise.

What support do you have in place?

I have the best support group I could ask for. My family has been with me throughout my entire journey, and I’m very lucky to have them. I have amazing friends as well who check up on me and are always by my side through the good, the bad, and the ugly. My neurologist is one of the most amazing people I’ve met, and I can’t emphasize enough how much she’s helped me when it comes to my epilepsy. 

Prepare for your next appointment: 15 questions to ask your neurologist

Advice to someone else looking to play tennis with epilepsy 

To everyone who wants to play tennis with epilepsy, try your best to find joy in the game. If tennis isn’t your love, find something that is, give yourself something to look forward to. Surrounding yourself with coaches that believe in you despite your epilepsy tremendously helps. They will not only help improve your game but will be another support group to help you through your journey. 

Advice to other young people with epilepsy dreaming of going to college

I think the biggest piece of advice to anyone with epilepsy is to stay positive. Epilepsy is out of our control. It sucks! But it is something we have to live with. Take on every day with a good attitude and live life to the fullest. You can’t spend every day feeling sorry for yourself, or you will live a sorrowful life. I live the best life, and it is because I stay resilient and positive.

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