How 'The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills' Is Harmful to 'Spoonies' Like Me
Let me start by saying that I have been a fan of this franchise from the very beginning of the O.C. edition. I have often called it my guilty pleasure, a show that I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I watch. But I follow many of the different series for different reasons, and the Beverly Hills housewives have always been a favorite of mine.
As part of the storyline for this season, Mrs. Yolanda Foster is documenting her daily battle with chronic illness. I applaud her for having the courage to take her very difficult fight public in such a revealing way. In the past her illness has been alluded to often with her cancelling plans at the last minute or not partaking in an activity due to fatigue. This season she is sharing more about the types of treatments she is working through and we are seeing more of her daily struggle in depth.
As a person who has struggled with chronic (and incurable) illness for the past seven years, I can most certainly relate to Mrs. Foster’s situation and feel a great deal of empathy for her and for her family.
Chronic illness is a difficult battle to face on your own and it can very easily tear a family to pieces. It does not just affect the one afflicted with the disease but directly impacts those family members who are closest. Your whole lifestyle has to change to accommodate your illness and therefore the lives of those closest to you are changed as well. It’s not easy. The illness of a loved one is one of the most difficult things a family has to deal with. I applaud Mrs. Foster’s courage to document her fight in such a public manner with the hope of raising awareness for her disease.
Lest we forget this is a reality series documenting the lives and interactions of six affluent women from Beverly Hills, a bit of drama must always be sprinkled throughout. This is where I fear the producers of this show may do the most damage. In just about every episode thus far this season there has been a storyline of the women in this group expressing doubt of Mrs. Foster’s illness.
Lots of questions have been asked by these ladies but none of which have been answered by anyone with specific knowledge of the patient and the disease. The ladies have doen everything from doubting her illness altogether to questioning her treatments and medical specialists. The idea this might all be “in her head” was even entertained. These conversations have been given a lot of screen time by the producers and then always are followed up with blog posts from the wives and are rehashed on after-shows and other news outlets.
I am a very sick person who often looks completely healthy (we are often referred to as “Spoonies”). But I’m not. I’m as far from perfectly healthy as I’ve ever been. While I do not share the same specific diagnosis as Mrs. Foster, we fight very similar fights. Every day when we wake up we have to make choices and be very selective about where we should expend our energy.
The fact that the show is giving so much attention to the doubt Mrs. Foster’s “friends” express about her illness is damaging to those of us with chronic illnesses. We are constantly bombarded with doubt, with condemnation and with suspicion. This comes at us from every angle — family, friends, coworkers, medical professionals, pharmacists and even new acquaintances. Often fighting and educating against the doubt and misinformed is just as, if not more, draining than fighting the diseases that plague our bodies.
While Mrs. Foster is taking the brave step to fight her illness in the public eye, the production of this show is casting her in a negative light by focusing on the doubt and conspiracy theories being whispered about amongst her friends. Through this platform the producers have an amazing opportunity to educate and enlighten the general population. As a “Spoonie” you can sometimes get up and out of bed and take a “smiling selfie” and then there are other times when you barely have the energy to change from sweatpants to clean sweatpants. Sometimes you can get up and out of the house for a social event but then spend the next three days in bed recouperating. Everyone has good days and bad days and those who are chronically ill are like that as well. We have good days and bad days, though often the bad out weigh the good.
I would like to encourage the producers and the cast to use this media platform to cast Mrs. Foster and her disease in a brighter light. One that demonstrates the ways her friends and those close to her could be of help as opposed to constantly casting her in a shroud of doubt.
By choosing to highlight the doubt Mrs. Foster’s friends have about her disease the producers are making it that much harder for the rest of us to get the love and support we need. If someone looks at this show and sees Mrs. Foster’s friends don’t even think she’s sick, they may wonder how could I or any other “Spoonie” possibly be sick either.
Thankfully, this show is not the end all, be all, of our community of “Spoonies.” We will all continue to get up every day and fight. Yolanda Foster, we welcome you to our “Spoonie” community with open arms of love, support and understanding. I pray you surround yourself with those who can lift you up and carry you through your journey with chronic illness, and let go of those who cast darkness and doubt.
A version of this post originally appeared on Spoonie Mama.