Renee Rangel-Espinoza, 43, was diagnosed with epilepsy three years ago, a resurgence of episodes that first appeared in her early 20s and for many years went into remission. “Before I got seizures,” she says, “I was getting what we call auras [the sensations that precede a seizure] or deja vu from high school on, not understanding what triggered [them].” Auras can come an hour or just a minute before a seizure and may involve nausea, headaches, anxiety, or a shift in the perception of smell, sight, or sound.
In 2001 she was living in Los Angeles with her ex, who would replay Ricky Martin music videos over and over. She noticed, during Martin’s cover of “I Can Go the Distance,” from the Disney movie Hercules, that her auras were getting stronger—so strong that she soon was out with a heavy seizure. To remedy the situation, she went on a medication called Topamax. It stopped the seizures, but she continued to experience auras.
“So I made a note and found out that my seizures are triggered by [the] sounds of certain music, lyrics, depending on the voice or the person that sings and how they sing it,” Rangel-Espinonza says. “Now I've learned that when I listen to music, if there is [a song] that I think might trigger my auras, I change it right away, or my hubby may have to. I even have to run out of stores at times, because of songs.” Other things she’s found that trigger her seizures include stress, caffeine, alcohol, and smoke. Her doctor’s advice: Stop smoking and drinking. “I had to make some drastic changes,” she says.