American tennis star Danielle Collins said she struggled to fold her own clothes in the lead-up to her rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis due to the intense pain she was feeling in her hands.
The 26-year-old announced last October that she has been diagnosed with the autoimmune condition that causes pain and swelling in numerous joints of her body. Collins’ revelation came just eight months after her fairytale run at the Australian Open where she reached the semi-finals whilst ranked outside the world’s top 30. Although at the time it was a new diagnosis for the world No.51, she believed she had been suffering from symptoms for many years.
“While in college I would get sick all the time. My college coaches were always pushing me to see doctors and stay on top of it because the health challenges they saw I was constantly facing.” Collins wrote for behindtheracquet.com.
“No one could figure it out. I continued to get bloodwork every two months and nothing came of it. During this time I had wrist surgery, a meniscus tear and a lot of joint related issues.’
“Orthopedics diagnosed me with tendonitis. Unfortunately I think there were many times many of my symptoms were pushed under the rug because I was an athlete.”
A former star of college tennis in his home country where she won two NCAA singles titles, Collins was initially dismissive that she could be suffering from Rheumatoid Arthritis due to her age. Although the condition does run in her family with her grandmother also suffering from it. According to the British National Health Service, women and those with a family history of the condition are most at risk of developing it.
“I pushed it off for a long time,” she admits. “ Periodically I would get bad joint pain, around my menstrual cycle, and it would be debilitating.’
“I would have a hard time getting out of bed and on the worst days would sleep for 15 hours straight. I constantly felt drowsy and tired. The weird thing is I got accustomed to feeling this way. I forgot what it was like to feel healthy and energetic.”
It was last summer where Collins said she reached ‘the last straw.’ Following her Australian Open breakthrough, her results of the tour towards the end of the season dropped significantly. Out of her last 11 tournaments played that year, she managed to win back-to-back matches in only one of them.
Following more checks, she was finally given the diagnosis shortly after her second round loss at the US Open.
“They found normal bloodwork with erosion in my neck, hands and feet, which was consistent with RA. It took a lot of bloodwork to rule out other diseases, such as lupus, but they finally diagnosed me with RA after the US Open,” Collins remembers.
“I have been on two different medications since then that have worked very well. I have mixed that with a pretty strict diet.” She added.
Collins is not the first tennis star to have the condition. Another is Caroline Wozniacki who discovered that she had it back in 2018. The Dane continued playing for another year before retiring from the tour. Although her decision was not due to her health.
Prior to the Tour suspension, Collins had enjoyed a solid start to 2020. Reaching the semi-finals of two Premier 700 events in Brisbane and Adelaide. However, she crashed out in the second round of the Australian Open to Yulia Putintseva. Now getting back on track, she hopes her story will hope inspire others.
“I didn’t want people calling me sick or let this disease define me. I had to take my situation and find the positives. I have moved forward in many areas the last few months but it still makes me nervous to think I may be a role model for others. I’m not the most outspoken person but I am working on being more comfortable with trying to help others through my experiences.” She concludes.