At 60, Derek Poole had never had a sick day in his life. Then late last year he started experiencing funny turns at work.
He would become confused, forget things and was having uncontrollable shakes in his arms and legs.
With a history of brain cancer in his family, Mr Poole said he was concerned it might have been that. However, after speaking to his GP he was told his symptoms could be signs of epilepsy.
After a number of failed specialist appointments in Tasmania, Mr Poole eventually travelled to the Royal Melbourne Hospital.
Following five days of tests, he was diagnosed with epilepsy. Having already missed four months of work, Mr Poole said he was relieved to finally have some answers.
"The diagnosis was a long time coming," he said.
"My mother had died of a brain tumor, so I was convinced that's what I had.
"But at the time I didn't really know what the diagnosis meant, or what was next."
In other news:
About 20,000 Tasmanians have epilepsy, with an additional 80,000 family members, carers, colleagues and friends affected in some way.
A disorder where nerve cell activity in the brain is disturbed, epilepsy causes seizures and can occur as the result of a genetic disorder, a brain injury or a stroke.
Before becoming unwell, Mr Poole said he had no understanding of the condition. Fortunately he was able to find some answers through Epilepsy Tasmania.
A not-for-profit community organisation providing education, coordination and support, Northern education and training coordinator Emma Smith* said referrals to Epilepsy Tasmania had grown 25 per cent in the past three months.
"Epilepsy is a medical condition, not a disability, but it does impact so many aspects of a person's life," she said.
"There are lots of challenges that people with epilepsy have to navigate, particularly around employment. We can't provide everything for everyone, but we often say we can be as much or as little as you want us to be, in terms of support."
Three months on from his diagnosis, Mr Poole has returned to his job at Island Fresh Produce and said he was feeling much more optimistic about the future.
"I know it will take some time, but I am starting to bring my seizures under control," he said. "Everyone with epilepsy is different, but I am on medication now and I have a lot more energy."
Ms Smith said about 80 per cent of epileptics could manage their seizures with medication.
"I think there is still a real stigma around epilepsy and a fear around people who have seizures," she said.
"Often people come to us and they are feeling isolated, with little hope for the future. But it can be managed and there is support for people."
- * Name changed for privacy reasons.