Serena Williams has insisted that the health of sister Venus is more important than playing tennis after she had to withdraw from the 2011 US Open.
Venus was diagnosed with the autoimmune disorder Sjogren’s syndrome, a revelation which came just months after Serena suffered a pulmonary embolism and hematoma.
Talking to People, 29-year-old Serena revealed that Venus is attempting to remain positive despite the illness, which causes severe fatigue and joint pain.
“She’s doing better. It’s a day at a time kind of a thing. Her spirits are good,” Serena said.
Sjogren’s syndrome is also known as “Mikulicz disease” and “Sicca syndrome”. It is a systemic autoimmune disease in which immune cells attack and destroy the exocrine glands that produce tears and saliva. It is named after Swedish ophthalmologist Henrik Sjogren (1899–1986), who first described it.
Nine out of ten Sjogren’s patients are women and the average age of onset is late 40s, although it occurs in all age groups in both women and men.
It is estimated to strike as many as 4 million people in the United States alone, making it the second most common autoimmune rheumatic disease.
“Tennis is great, but [Venus’s illness] puts everything in perspective. I love playing tennis and I love the battle, but I realize that life is so precious, and it isn’t all about tennis,” Williams said.