Susan Axelrod – founding chair and research committee chair of CURE, Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy – is raising awareness and funds to find a cure for epilepsy.
In 1998, Susan Axelrod and a few women were faced with the unexpected – their children experienced unexplained epileptic seizures. With no cure or answers in sight, the ladies created CURE. Sixteen years later, over $18 million has been raised to find a cure for epilepsy.
On May 19, CURE hosts its first annual Mother’s Day Campaign to honor women who CURE…others. Ms. Axelrod shares, “With a donation in honor of the millions of mothers who watch their children suffer from uncontrollable seizures and the devastating effects of countless medicines to try to treat it, a gift to the CURE Mother’s Day Campaign is a gift of hope. It’s every mother’s basic instinct to protect their child. CURE’s mission and the mission of this campaign, is not only driven by the pressing need for scientific research and data, but by the painful struggle of the mothers, who watch helplessly as their children suffer from epilepsy.”
Keep reading for more with Ms. Axelrod…
Tell us more about the CURE Mother’s Day campaign? It’s a nationwide initiative to honor the mothers who make an impact in all of our lives, including but not limited to mothers of children with epilepsy. We hope that by honoring these amazing women, we can also increase awareness and funds to support CURE’s cutting-edge research program.
What else do you want people to know about the gala on May 19? This year marks our 16th annual Chicago benefit. We’re blessed to have so many remarkable supporters in the Chicago area, and this year that includes our event chair Debra Cafaro (CEO/chairman, Ventas) and Phil Emery (general manager of the Chicago Bears). And to top it off, we’re all looking forward to a great treat – a special musical presentation by the talented James Taylor! Our benefit is so meaningful to CURE. So many supporters have been with us since the very beginning. Without them, the scientific progress we’ve witnessed wouldn’t have been possible!
How important is it to raise funds for research on epilepsy? Our goal is a world without epilepsy and seizures. We can only achieve this through research. This is a cause that everyone whose lives have been touched by epilepsy can get behind. However severe the impact on their lives has been. So many new people are joining this effort, sharing their personal stories and helping to advance research in so many different ways. And I can’t say enough about how the scientific community, as well, has rallied behind this mission.
Do you call Chicago and D.C. home? I’m a native Chicagoan and have made this city my home for all but my college years. Although I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent visiting our nation’s capital, the opportunities that time afforded me and the fabulous people I met, I am happy to still call Chicago home.
If you could raise the awareness of another organization, what would that be? I am forever indebted to two organizations that have enhanced my daughter’s life: Misericordia, where she lives and works in Chicago, and Special Olympics, where she has learned to train and compete in a joyful and respectful environment.
What is your motto? When faced with adversity, I remind myself that I have almost always, in my life, been able to look back at that experience, see the journey it has taken me on and appreciate that something positive, that would otherwise not have happened, has occurred because of that adversity. I would give anything in the world for epilepsy not to have been a part of Lauren’s life, but I know that she and I would not have otherwise met some of the most amazing friends and colleagues that we are so blessed to be associated with.
Who or what has influenced you in your career? My daughter, Lauren, has inspired and influenced me in my work. She is, of course, the inspiration for what I do. Her resilience as she fought through years of seizures and failed treatments is what fuels my drive to keep persevering until we find the cure.
What do you like to do in your spare time? I exercise…run religiously. We recently got a puppy, Mac, and he keeps me busy at the dog parks – even in the dead of winter!
What is the best advice you ever received? Bernadine Healey, the former head of the National Institutes of Health, once told me, “There is no history of scientific progress in a disease state that has not been started and fueled by patient advocates. Keep up this good work.”