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Real Housewives

Yolanda Foster's Lyme Disease Crisis: Bringing Awareness to Beverly Hills

Glenn Rowley

Photo Credit: Bravo

Photo Credit: Bravo

It's safe to say that Yolanda Foster's journey on the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills hasn't been quite what she anticipated. Upon her introduction to Season 3, the blonde beauty positioned herself as a kind of Dutch Martha Stewart, dedicated to the lemon grove on her Malibu estate, glass doored refrigerator in her kitchen and her "loves" - GRAMMY-winning musical legend/husband David Foster and children Gigi, Bella and Anwar with ex Mohammed Hadid. In her first season on the show, Yolanda became a no-nonsense voice of reason among her feuding castmates, often appearing baffled by the legal drama between Adrienne Maloof and Brandi Glanville and the constant catfights erupting between the ladies. In fact, when an argument broke out on a cast trip to Ojai early in the season between Brandi, Adrienne, Taylor Armstrong and Kim Richards, she openly questioned what planet these new friends of hers were from and called out their inability to discuss issues like "normal women." Though sometimes appearing aloof and reserved among the ladies, her demeanor was chalked up to her level-headed upbringing in Holland. 

yolanda-vs-taylor

As is typical in the Housewives universe, Yolanda couldn't stay completely out of the drama though, and was inevitably dragged into the mud, taking Brandi's side in her falling out with Adrienne and clashing with Taylor over the original 'Wife's unwarranted dislike of her husband David. Some context: Taylor's good friend Linda Thompson was the music icon's third wife, which sparked the random vendetta. (Incidentally, Linda was also the second wife of Bruce - now Caitlyn - Jenner and is the mom to Brody and Brandon. She's basically the connecting piece between RHOBH, the Kardashians and The Hills.) Multiple times, Taylor denied having an issue with Yolanda when confronted, but eventually copped to it during the opening of Kyle Richards boutique, Kyle by Alene Too. During the conversation, Yolanda was unable to come up with the right thing to say called Taylor a "real ass***", which was very uncharacteristic of the refined, well-spoken Dutch beauty fans had gotten to know over the course of filming. Unbeknownst to viewers, Yolanda had been quietly struggling all season long - feeling mentally foggy and straining to put thoughts together - and the confrontation with Taylor served as a wakeup call that something might be seriously wrong. By the time the reunion rolled around, Yolanda had found the explanation to her mental fog: Lyme disease, which was attacking her brain function. 

Photo Credit: @yolandahfoster

Photo Credit: @yolandahfoster

Lyme disease is an infectious disease transmitted to humans through a tick bite. Early symptoms can include a rash at the site of the bite, fever, headache and loss of energy. However, if left untreated, symptoms can eventually devolve into loss of the ability to move one or both sides of the face, joint pain, heart palpitations, memory loss and other neurocognitive problems. Severity and treatment of the disease can also be complicated by late diagnosis, antibiotic failure and other infections. As Yolanda's explained on the show, Lyme symptoms may manifest themselves differently in each person - so where her disease attacks her brain function, others may suffer from variations of the symptoms listed above. A persistent infection following treatment can eventually lead to the diagnosis of chronic Lyme disease, though the term is controversial amongst medical professionals and healthcare providers. 

yolanda-surgery

Subsequent seasons have documented Yolanda's ongoing battle with the disease. Amidst the lavish dinner parties and friendship fallouts, we've watched Yo fight back with treatment and surgery and suffer debilitating setbacks. She even had a port taken out of her heart while filming the show. During Season 4 her illness even became a contributing factor in her fallout with Lisa Vanderpump, when she felt the Brit was being a "Hollywood friend" by not visiting or checking up on her when she was bedridden between seasons. Thankfully, the disease hasn't kept Yo from actively participating during filming of the show. Even being sick, she still rather amazingly acts as the peacemaker among the other 'Wives, and brought the ladies on a memorable and dramatic cast trip to her native Amsterdam last year. However, much of the off-season has been a different story. By the time Season 5 had started airing in 2014, Yolanda was unable to pen her weekly blogs for Bravotv.com, as a major relapse had taken away her ability to read, write or process information. At the fifth season reunion, she showed up looking stunning in a cream-colored Victoria Beckham dress, but was only well enough to participate briefly during Part 1 before excusing herself. 

yolanda-reunion-5

Despite the seemingly never-ending battle, Yolanda and her family have never given up the fight to find a cure. Flying around the world, the Fosters have consulted doctors and specialists from ever corner of the globe, trying both traditional and alternative treatments. I've said more than once, to people who don't even watch the show in fact, that Yolanda's battle shows the unfortunate reality that money can't fix every problem in life. The Fosters have access to the best doctors and medical care from around the globe, yet even with seemingly unlimited resources, they haven't been able to find a cure. However, Yolanda refuses to give up hope, bringing awareness to the disease via social media, recruiting her castmates to participate in the #TakeaBiteOutofLyme campaign and giving a voice to her fellow "Lymies" in the process. As her health continued to deteriorate, many questioned whether she would be well enough to film Season 6. Following the departure of Kim Richards and Brandi Glanville, rumors have circulated that she'll indeed be a part of the season, though possibly in a limited capacity.

gigi-hadid-chanel

Yolanda also continues celebrating her husband and children, particularly the success her daughters have achieved in their burgeoning modeling careers. Since her mom's diagnosis, Gigi has become a bonafide international supermodel, with younger sister Bella hot on her heels. Just this week, Gigi starred in her second music video of the year for Calvin Harris' "How Deep is Your Love?" after appearing in arguably the biggest video of the year for bestie Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood." She was also recently named the new face of cosmetics brand Maybelline, walked in Fashion Weeks around the world for the likes of Marc Jacobs, Jean Paul Gaultier and Chanel and graced the cover of three different international issues of Vogue in Spain, Australia and Brazil. 

yolanda-chokehold

However, this week Yolanda may have found an answer she's been searching for. With her castmates filming the opening of Kyle's second store in the Hamptons, she shared via Instagram with her 1.2 million followers that doctors discovered one of her 20-year-old breast implants had ruptured and was leaking silicone into her body. Having her implants removed, the hope is that her symptoms will be alleviated and she can start the road to recovery. I'm not exactly sure how the Lyme disease and leaking silicone would correlate but am so happy and hopeful that this is indeed the jackpot Yo has been waiting for. 

Photo Credit: Bravo

Photo Credit: Bravo

Throughout her health crisis, Yolanda Foster has remained strong, poised and full of positivity. I admire her for her resilience and refusal to give up while going through such a real, unending struggle. Her life has taken such an expected turn since becoming one of the Housewives, but she's used the platform to educate and inspire millions of fans around the world as we follow her fighting the good fight. I'm hoping to see her holding a diamond come the Season 6 premiere this fall, but regardless of what may happen, I continue to be touched by her tenacity to "turn a mess into a message." Like other fans, I'm rooting for our favorite Dutch girl, so let's raise a lemon to her continued progress and journey back to health. Love you, Yo!