This is Why Venus Williams Should Be Your New Favorite Player

Athletes always seem to be on a level beyond reach of those around them, much like a revered saint or goddess. Their physical prowess is awe-inspiring, the pinnacle of human strength and determination.

So when an athlete acknowledges that something is hindering their progress, it’s strangely…humanizing.

Most commonly, you think of athletes getting injured. But in keeping with their exalted position as  the athlete, of course they’ll recover quickly and bounce back. That’s what they do. What you don’t expect to hear is that a stellar athlete has a chronic illness.

Tech Insider details the story of Venus Williams Sjogren’s syndrome diagnosis after years of being misdiagnosed. Say What?! An extremely talented and successful tennis superstar…with an autoimmune disease?

That year, Williams had to leave the U.S. Women’s Open because of her symptoms, especially fatigue. And that moment signaled to her that she needed to make some changes.

Giving up tennis? Not an option.


Venus and Serena Williams Playing Doubles
Venus (left) playing a doubles match with her sister Serena (right). Source: Flickr

Fighting Sjogren’s with everything she has? The only option.

Since she finally had an answer, Williams was able to take medication that actually helped her. But, of course, there is no cure for Sjogren’s, so she’s had to make other adjustments in her life.

Take, for example, fatigue. Williams is familiar with those days when you’re just so exhausted that getting out of bed seems like a herculean effort. But staying in bed isn’t a solution for her. Instead, she forces herself to get up and do a little something each day. In her mind, every little bit adds up.

So, yes, some days she may have to skip practice or change her plans around. But that doesn’t mean she’s not still thriving. She accepts this as a new challenge, a challenge she will win.

Williams became a public face for Sjogren’s, even doing a candid interview with the Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation where she spoke about the importance of understanding what your body needs.

By changing around how she exercises and adopting a vegan diet, Williams has been making great strides against her disease. She quickly bounced back into competitive play, and although she hasn’t won another title, she is still viewed as a fierce opponent.

No one holds her in higher esteem than her sister, Serena. They regularly pair up to play doubles, but in singles matches, Serena trains the hardest for her sister.

This year, the sisters faced off in the U.S. Open quarterfinals. Serena beat Venus, and continued her quest for a Calendar Grand Slam until she was bested in the finals by Roberta Vinci.

But for Venus Williams, losing to her sister was not the end of the world. She will continue playing tennis as long as she can, and nothing, not even Sjogren’s, will hold her back.

From the many stories we heard from patients for Invisible Awareness Week, we learned often the hardest part of having a chronic illness is that no one else really knows about it or how it affects you.

Share Venus’ story to show that once the disease is exposed to the light, that’s when the healing begins.

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