The Real Problem With The Brooks Ayers Cancer Question

Does Brooks Ayers have cancer? That is the question that fans of the Real Housewives of Orange County (RHOC) and E! News have been asking.

Last season, in an everyday run-of-the-mill meeting, the housewives find out that their psychic has a hazy view on Brooks Ayers’ cancer. Their psychic never actually said, “He doesn’t have cancer” but that was enough for the to cast doubt on Brooks’ illness and spark epic RHOC fights resulting in the housewives not talking to each other.

In between reports on Kim Kardashian’s pregnancy cravings and Caitlyn Jenner’s bangs, E! tried to dig up the truth. They interviewed Brooks during which he provided a bill from the cancer treatment center City of Hope to prove that he has cancer. E! dressed up and “played detective” to analyze Brooks’ cancer documents. What’s next? Will Maria Menounos pose undercover while Ryan Seacrest monitors surveillance in a windowless van?

Last month, a City of Hope spokesperson revealed to E! “They have never treated anyone by the name of ‘David Brooks Ayers’ at their facilities.” The quandary with that (aside from an entertainment network attempting to practice investigative journalism) is that The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) protects Brooks’ privacy.

Last month, Brooks came clean and admitted to E! that he fabricated the documents but still maintains he has cancer.

So back to the question: Does Brook Ayers have cancer? Here is the answer:

That’s none of your damn business.

As someone with an invisible illness, it’s pretty disgusting to watch the skepticism over Brooks’ health. When I first started experiencing symptoms of autoimmune disease, I couldn’t get the treatment and support I needed because doctors, family members, and friends didn’t believe me. I continue to face judgment and skepticism because I appear to be healthy. Skepticism towards people with invisible illness happens every day.

Apparently it’s become “cool” to leave a note on someone’s car who doesn’t “appear” to be disabled. Justine Van Den Borne, diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, has been targeted a number of times for parking in handicapped parking spots in Australia. Dusty Stribel with muscular dystrophy parked in a handicapped parking space to have lunch with his wife and daughter when he received this nasty note. A disabled veteran in Texas found a note on his car saying he did not “look handicapped” and therefore shouldn’t be using a handicapped spot. Trying to “catch someone faking” often causes more harm than good because disabilities or illnesses are not always visible.

I acknowledge that the housewives distrust Brooks because they find him sketchy and they are paid to stir the pot. I understand that it’s the RHOC producers’ responsibility to ignite the flame and create drama out of thin air. I know that RHOC isn’t exactly the classiest reality show but it’s pretty low to create a storyline based on questioning a person’s illness.

Maybe he doesn’t have cancer, but that’s not the point. The point is that you shouldn’t be judging whether someone is sick or not.

Of course it’s reprehensible to fake cancer, but it’s also pretty awful to doubt someone’s illness.  

Tricia Barendregt
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