- Venus Williams is a famous professional tennis player with seven Grand Slam singles titles
- With sister Serena, the Florida native captured 14 women’s doubles major titles
- The superstar athlete was diagnosed with Sjögren syndrome, an autoimmune disease
Venus Williams, the iconic tennis superstar, has not only dominated the courts but also battled a lesser-known opponent off the radar: Sjögren’s syndrome. The sister of Serena Williams has fearlessly tackled the autoimmune condition that affects about 4 million people in the U.S., shedding light on an often-overlooked aspect of her life.
The tennis prodigy, who won her first Wimbledon singles in 2000, hasn’t let the diagnosis dampen her spirit, either. Despite the lifelong symptoms that accompany the condition, she inspires fans by continuing to battle in the pro sports world. Venus has redefined what it means to be a warrior, both on and off the court.
“Don’t be discouraged, because what [you’re] going through is similar to other people,” she said in 2019 to comfort others with autoimmune diseases, per Prevention.com. “Talk to those people who understand you or have a similar condition, reach out, and build a [support] team. Don’t isolate yourself. Don’t give up.”
While Venus keeps in high spirits and fans continue to send their well wishes, learn more about her health struggle, below.
Venus Williams Diagnosed With Cancer
Venus had been ranked No. 1 in the world and had two Wimbledons under her belt when she first experienced symptoms like fatigue in 2004. “No matter how hard I worked, I was exhausted, short of breath, and never felt in shape. It was really frustrating,” she told Prevention.com. “My symptoms got progressively worse, to the point where I couldn’t play professional tennis anymore.”
Her mystery illness didn’t get a name until 2011, when she was finally diagnosed with Sjögren’s syndrome. “Unfortunately, that’s typical of people with autoimmune disease,” she said to the outlet. “They’re misdiagnosed or too sick to function. I literally had professional tennis taken away from me before I got the right diagnosis.” She added, “So you can imagine, it has definitely affected my game.”