Talk show host Wendy Williams is no stranger to being in the headlines. Oftentimes, it is controversial, and relates to something questionable she said on The Wendy Williams Show.
Lately, she's back in the news, but this time it is for a completely different reason: her failing health.
Fans first became concerned about the lively gossip queen when she fainted on television during her Halloween episode last year.
The fainting incident
Williams, who was dressed as the Statue of Liberty, was struggling to get words out and stay upright before blacking out.
"That was not a stunt. I overheated in my costume and I did pass out," Williams later said.
In February, Williams was forced to miss a few days of filming after she developed "flu-like symptoms."
Although she made it seem like her health crisis was not a big deal, both the collapse and the "flu" were actually related to something a lot more serious.
After returning to the show, Williams revealed that she suffers from Graves' disease.
Also known as toxic goiter, Graves' disease is an autoimmune condition that affects the thyroid. It is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism, which is described by the American Thyroid Association as "a generalized overactivity of the entire thyroid gland."
One of the most recognizable characteristics of a person with the condition is the shape of their eyes, which often appear to be bulging.
“Graves’ disease squeezes the muscles behind the eyeballs,” Williams explained on a recent episode of the show, adding that it has made her eyeballs twitch. “I often feel like birds are swimming around my head. Like constantly high, but not high.”
She also announced that she would be taking a three-week hiatus as per doctor's orders.
“Wendy is a true champion and has never missed a day of work. But her health and well-being must be put before all else,” a show rep told PEOPLE. “Wendy has been openly dealing with her Graves’ Disease for many years in addition to hyperthyroidism. Yesterday, Wendy’s doctor prescribed a necessary three weeks of rest to get her levels and medication in sync. The show will be in repeats during this unplanned hiatus. A live show was produced today so that Wendy could speak directly to her fans and explain her condition.”
Now, Williams herself is opening up about her health to the publication, as well as Good Morning America for the first time since making her diagnosis public.
Putting herself first
Williams is set to return to her self-titled show on March 19, but she explained that she will be putting herself first from now on.
“We, as women, particularly if — we have families, you know, we’re taking care of children, we’re taking care of, you know, home, our husbands, we take care of everybody but ourselves,” Williams told GMA's Amy Robach.
“And it’s really unfortunate. And that — that is something that has no socioeconomic thing to it. No matter what — no matter what the woman’s status is, it seems like we’re all in the same boat,” adding that she wouldn't be doing that anymore. “Wendy first," she said.
While many of her viewers have only been made aware of her condition recently, Williams was actually diagnosed with Graves' disease 19 years prior.
There are medications available to manage the condition, although in some severe cases radioactive iodine or surgery may be required.
In Williams' case, she wasn't taking care of her symptoms and even missed her "six month endocrinology appointment." She cancelled the appointment so she could attend a business meeting instead.
She thought she was experiencing symptoms of menopause, and it wasn't until the state of her health "was pretty bad" that she decided to get checked.
“With the menopause I wasn’t pointing a finger to any particular thing. I was just feeling like ‘All right, well I’m 53 and this is I guess how it’s supposed to be,'" she said.
"I feel a hundred percent better..."
Thankfully, the host is now feeling a lot better, and is ready to return to her purple chair.
“I feel a hundred percent better than I was a few months ago. I had a storm going in my body is the best way I can explain it,” said Williams. “I love doing the show, but I love me more. So I’m going to take care of me, so I can be there for them."
Williams will be shining more light on Graves' disease and hyperthyroidism on her show from now on. In fact, Dr. Oz will join her when the show returns to discuss the condition.
Hopefully she was able to get enough rest to regain her strength before returning to work. Dealing with a chronic illness is already hard enough, but I can't imagine what it's like when all eyes are on you.