Talent Recap

Olympian Suni Lee Opens Up About Her Incurable Kidney Disease

Suni Lee at the 2023 U.S. ClassicPhoto by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

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The remarkable Olympic gymnast and former celebrity contestant on Dancing With The Stars, Suni Lee has recently shared a deeply personal journey. In a recent interview, Lee shared her journey of being diagnosed with an incurable kidney disease, that has significantly impacted her life and gymnastics career.

Suni Lee Opened Up About Her Kidney Disease

It all began earlier this year when Lee noticed something was off. She woke up one morning with swollen ankles, which she initially brushed off as a consequence of her intense training regimen. However, when the swelling persisted and spread to her entire body, including her face, legs, and hands, she knew something was seriously wrong.

Lee turned to her coach, who wisely advised consulting with Dr. Faustin, one of the physicians for the USA Gymnastics Women’s National Team. Dr. Faustin’s concern was immediate, realizing that Lee’s body was not in a condition to continue her rigorous training.

“I kept peeling off the bar. I couldn’t hold on,” Lee said. “My fingers were so swollen, and I couldn’t even do a normal kip cast to handstand on bars.”

Initially, doctors suspected an allergic reaction, but as the swelling persisted and other symptoms emerged, they realized that something more serious was at play. Lee’s concern about her future in gymnastics grew, as did her frustration when multiple medical tests failed to provide answers.

It was only when Dr. Faustin asked Lee about her urination difficulties that a possible lead emerged. They conducted a urine test, which revealed the need for further investigation. A specialist referred Lee to undergo a kidney biopsy to assess potential damage or disease.

Suni Lee Decided to Keep The Nature of Her Diagnosis Private

On April 3, Lee made the difficult decision to end her NCAA gymnastics season at Auburn University due to a “non-gymnastics health-related issue involving my kidneys.” Although she revealed her diagnosis off the record, Lee has chosen to keep it private for now, as her doctors believe it might evolve with further testing. She did, however, disclose that her condition is rare and has no cure, and her medical team is still developing a treatment plan involving medication.

Lee’s emotional response to this life-changing diagnosis is understandable. She questioned how she could go from being a healthy athlete to someone with a chronic condition. The uncertainty about her Olympic comeback and the changes in her athletic abilities have weighed heavily on her.

Her recent return to competition in the 2023 Core Hydration Classic and her bronze finish on the beam at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships last month shows her determination. She has made adjustments to her lifestyle, including more frequent meals, reduced salt intake, and increased rest time in her training schedule.

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