Tennis Goddess Venus Williams dropped out of the U.S. open in August, 2011. After playing just one match, she had to walk away because of her fight with Sjogren’s Syndrome.
Sjogren’s is yet another chronic autoimmune disease. Here, you body attacks moisture-producing glands. So common symptoms include dry eyes, mouth and skin. Fatigue is also an issue. While symptoms can be mild, they can also be very debilitating because this disease affects the whole body.
Moisture is important in so many systems of the body: the lungs, gastrointestinal tract, nerves, joints, etc. Complications reach from pneumonia to hepatitis, to lymphoma, to numbness/tingling/burning sensations in hands and feet.
For Williams, fatigue was too severe to continue. Though she finished the first match at the US Open, she couldn’t even raise her serving arm afterwards. (Side note: the disease has a genetic component but Serena Williams says she does not have the same symptoms as her sister.) She battled it for years before finally being diagnosed.
She believes she first started experiencing the effects of Sjorgren’s in 2007 when she was mis-diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma. The problem is that this disease is so hard to diagnose! Patients can appear to be the picture of health on the outside and might be told they are hypochondriacs or depressed. In fact, it takes the average person seven years to receive the correct diagnosis.
It becomes clear why Williams took a break from tennis for a while. There is no cure but there are things you can do and medications that can help. Williams took time to take care of herself and learn about how best to manage her disease. In doing so, she became vegan
Williams has helped spread awareness by making a public announcement of her diagnosis. At the London Olympics she carried the Olympic torch on July 23rd–World Sjogren’s Day. Speaking of the Olympics…it seems like Williams’ lifestyle changes to fight the disease paid off since she took home Gold!
She isn’t letting Sjogren’s keep her down and she is spreading the awareness so others don’t needlessly suffer for years, like she did.
So much pain and suffering can be avoided with an early diagnosis. I can speak from experience in saying that the diagnosis of a disease with no cure is actually a relief because at least you know its real. It has a name. It’s not in your head. And now you can take steps to best manage your disease.
Congrats Venus for fighting through your illness and for all you’ve accomplished!!
I hope you enjoyed Starstruck Saturday. The inaugural Starstruck Week has come to an end. It has been quite a hit! Thank you so much for all your feedback and many visits! I hope we can continue to share celebrities with stories you enjoy!