In 2011, tennis superstar Venus Williams went public with her auto-immune disease Sjogren’s Syndrome. But until recently, Williams hasn’t discussed it much. She appeared on Dr. Oz and explained to America’s favorite physician that it took a very long time for doctors to find out what was making her sick.
“The reason it stayed such a mystery is because the symptoms are so ambiguous that no one can really diagnose it,” said Williams. “At one point, I just ended up getting sicker. And that’s what happens to a lot of people. The average diagnosis time is about seven years. And that’s what happen to me. It took seven years.”
Williams said she began noticing a difference in her health around 2004. She recalls struggling to get in shape and even mistaking her problem for laziness. About every six months she would get tests done and nothing would ever turn up. “As an athlete, you don’t make excuses. Either you do it or you don’t,” said Williams about failing to rise to the occasion on the court. “So in my head, I just thought, ‘Oh, maybe I’m just kind of lazy, you know’ That’s would I would think.”
Today, the champion is doing much better and is back on top of her game. Dr. Oz revealed that although it’s tough to spot the disease, it most often appears in women. Williams said since being diagnosed she’s had to adjust her diet by eliminating sugars. Once a strict raw vegan, Williams also admits to munching on cheese every now and then.
Despite her recent health setbacks, she’s planning to compete in the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio.