The Chronicles of Yolandia
An Investigation of Chronic Lyme Disease
Part I: The Basic Breakdown
With the latest season of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills upon us, the story line of Yolanda Hadid Foster’s Chronic Lyme Disease battle is front and center. During the show’s off-season, we have witnessed Yolanda detail her struggles, treatments, and experiences on social media. However, there is a growing concern that Yolanda’s social media and presence on the show is spreading pseudo-scientific beliefs, especially as she has had until now, an unquestioned platform.
I intend on breaking down CLD, Yolanda Foster herself, and the pseudoscience surrounding the CLD diagnosis, treatments, and experience. I am not a doctor, but I am a skeptic and I am knowledgeable about Lyme Disease itself, seeing as I live in a tick infested region. I have a personal interest in scientific knowledge and critical thinking. Housewives have a unique outreach, which is why on this blog, I will be addressing their pseudoscience specifically.
Onwards.Many know what Lyme Disease is–an infectious disease caused by ticks. The medical community is also very familiar with Lyme Disease, especially in the New England/Mid-Atlantic region where deer ticks and Lyme Disease are fairly common.
Lyme Disease happens like this:
- 36-48 hours: Infection Occurs
- 1-4 weeks: Early localized Lyme Disease
- Flu-like symptoms occur, as well as the typical rash.
- Sometimes, symptoms are not obvious.
- However! This is the stage where majority of cases are treated.
- 1-4 months: Early Disseminated infection
- At this stage, the infection spreads across the skin (usually more rashes), joint issues, nervous/heart systems issues
- Few patients make it this far because Lyme Disease is observable and treatable.
- After 4 months: Late Persistent Lyme Disease
- Serious joint and nervous system deterioration occurs.
- The longer it goes not diagnosed, the more likely a fatal complication occurs. Clarification: one would probably have cardiac issues listed on the death certificate, rather than Lyme Disease.
As you can tell, the timeline from treatment to disastrous effects is fairly short. Lyme Disease is not something that takes years or even half a year to develop. Understanding the disease and timeline I think is crucial when we talk about this issue.
Lyme Disease Incidence Rates
A couple things to note from the CDC’s chart here. As you can tell, incidences in California are fairly low. If we go with Yolanda’s general claim (there is so discrepancy) that she and her children got Lyme in 2012, that would be a crazy statistical anomaly. It would be fairly unheard of for 5% of cases in a state to belong to one family. Lyme Disease certainly exists in California, but it is not nearly as widespread as say in Connecticut, Massachusetts, or even Delaware (arguably much smaller states.)
Lyme Disease itself is a very specific and awful experience. I’ve known dozens of people to have it, seeing as I have lived in Pennsylvania and know many people from the New England and Mid-Atlantic region. Generally, a course of antibiotics does the trick and there may be some lingering pains or issues, but nothing like what Yolanda’s experience or instagram has shown.
However, Lyme Disease is not really what is at question here. What our questions surround is Chronic Lyme Disease and parsing out Yolanda’s story. For starters, we need to make it clear that Lyme Disease is not the same as Chronic Lyme Disease. And Chronic Lyme Disease is not the same as Post-Treatment Chronic Lyme Disease Syndrome.
Chronic Lyme Disease (CLD)
Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome (PTLDS)
Issues following treatment for any disease is not uncommon. Similarly, after Lyme Disease, roughly 10-20% of patients after Lyme Disease antibiotic treatment. This is called Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome, or PTLDS. PTLDS can also include individuals who went untreated and suffer from late stage Lyme Disease effects like arthritis. PTLDS is a very real issue, with very real struggles, but also a very observable cause.
Treatments for PTLDS generally include anti-depressants, exercise, and possibly other medical interventions and majority of patients recover in about 6 months to a year.
But Yolanda hasn’t called her struggle PTLDS. Rather, she has called it Chronic Lyme Disease or CLD. This term is generally applied to individuals with nonspecific symptoms and where there is no objective evidence that they ever had Lyme Disease in the past.
Treatments for CLD begin with long term antibiotics and generally progress to other alternative herbs, vitamins, and therapies.
This is why the CDC for example, recognizes PTLDS, but not CLD. A common tactic in pseudoscience and anti-science groups is to take legitimate ideas or issues and change them just enough to be different, but be similar enough to muddy the waters.
The course of treatments for CLD to use antibiotics long term and in large quantities is actually dangerous and not one, but three studies done by the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases demonstrated what other evidence has already shown: they are not effective in any way.
The Beginning Timeline and Facts
- December 2012 – Yolanda Being Treated for “Neuro Borellia Lyme disease“she has a port installed.
- April 2013 – Port removed
- The same article claims at a Lyme Research Alliance gala earlier in April 2013, Yolanda states she has had symptoms for 2.5 years.
- Lyme Research Alliance is a pseudoscience lobbying group for CLD.
- This would mean Yolanda contracted Lyme Disease then somewhere around late 2010/early 2011.
- The timeline will already get fuzzy because in this article at a gala from this year, Yolanda says she got it early 2012.
- Viewers of the show will note that Yolanda’s first season is Season 3, which was filmed in 2012.
- Frequently, she is shown exercising, alert, and does not comment about migraines, pain, or otherwise. In fact, she talks about just how healthy she is.
- It isn’t clear still in my preliminary research that Yolanda has ever had Lyme Disease proper, rather that she was diagnosed with Chronic Lyme Disease.
- I would suspect that if she had Lyme Disease, she would have been completely debilitated in her first season, definitely second season.
- In 2015, Yolanda claimed both Anwar and Bella, two of her children, also have Chronic Lyme Disease
What’s the harm?
If a rich lady wants to spend her money and damage her body with pseudoscience who are we to stop her?
The harm is that pseudoscience and alternative therapies can cost people their lives. Inappropriate therapies lead to death. Yolanda Hadid Foster has a large social media outreach and a television show with millions of viewers that she can influence and legitimize
- The Chronicles of Yolandia: an Investigation of CLD – Part II: Pseudoscience Treatments Emerge
- The Chronicles of Yolandia: an Investigation of CLD – Part III: The Current Season and Questioning