One last brief comment about Suzanne Somers

Before I move on for a while from the topic of that faded 1970s comic actress, Suzanne Somers, whose latest book is a paean to cancer quackery and who has been carpetbombing the airwaves with burning napalm stupid, I think one revelation is worth a brief mention. Specifically, after my post about how I find Somers’ story about being misdiagnosed with cancer, a fan wrote:

Orac,

Sarcoidosis? Nope. Wrong again. Suzanne admitted on TV she had an acute pulmonary fungal infection, valley fever. Try going back to medical school, you mental midget.

I do so love the adoration of my fans. However, it would answer many questions. Valley fever is due to a fungus that is endemic in the southwest United States. If that was indeed what Somers had, it must have been the disseminated version:

The most serious form of the disease, disseminated coccidioidomycosis occurs when the infection spreads (disseminates) beyond the lungs to other parts of the body. Most often these parts include the skin, bones, liver, brain, heart, and the membranes that protect the brain and spinal cord (meninges).
The signs and symptoms of disseminated disease depend on which parts of your body are affected and may include:

  • Nodules, ulcers and skin lesions that are more serious than the rash that sometimes occurs with other forms of the disease
  • Painful lesions in the skull, spine or other bones
  • Painful, swollen joints, especially in the knees or ankles
  • Meningitis — an infection of the membranes and fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord and the most deadly complication of valley fever

Now here’s the kicker. Take a look at these two (out of several) risk factors:

  • Weakened immune system. Anyone with a weakened immune system is at increased risk of serious complications, including disseminated disease. This includes people living with AIDS or those being treated with steroids, chemotherapy or anti-rejection drugs after transplant surgery. People with cancer and Hodgkin’s disease also have an increased risk.
  • Age. Older adults are more likely to develop valley fever than younger people are. This may be because their immune systems are less robust or because they have other medical conditions that affect their overall health.

These are risk factors for the serious disseminated coccidioidomycosis. Most people who contract coccidioidomycosis are either asymptomatic or have mild disease. Indeed, valley fever often presents as a flu-like illness. Many people, in fact, are unaware that they’ve ever had coccidioidomycosis until there’s either an abnormality on chest X-ray done for another reason or they have a positive skin or blood test. So why did Somers get such a serious case? It’s a legitimate question, given how she represents her woo regimen as the path to rejuvenation and health.

Let’s see. Somers is 63, but apparently in good health. She also takes all sorts of supplements which, or so she claims, “strengthen the immune system.” But her immune system was obviously not strong enough to prevent her from getting disseminated coccidioidomycosis. Didn’t all those supplements ward off the fungus? Another possibility presents itself. Somers takes boatloads of “bioidentical” hormones. One wonders if any of her various supplements or bioidentical hormones were somehow adulterated with corticosteroids, which suppressed her immune system.

Either way, for someone who takes handfuls of supplement pills every day and makes millions of dollars selling woo to “boost the immune system,” Somers sure doesn’t appear to have a particularly strong immune system. After all, it let her get a severe infection that almost killed her from a fungus that usually causes mild disease or doesn’t even cause symptoms.

OK, that’s enough for now. No more on Somers until I have a chance to read a few chapters of her book. Be not afraid. At least until I revisit this topic in a week or two. Until then, though, I’ve had enough too. In the meantime, chalk up this discussion as providing yet another “inconvenient” question that needs to be asked of her, assuming that “Borack” was correct.