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Jet Li

I know Jet Li’s pain: Model-actress Christine Kuo is healthy again after hypothyroidism hell

The part-time racing driver is happier these days after overcoming a thyroid illness that almost ruined her career and caused her to fall into depression

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 June, 2018, 5:49pm
UPDATED : Monday, 04 June, 2018, 9:32am

When reading about the misfortunes of martial arts superstar Jet Li Lianjie recently, Hong Kong model-actress and part-time racing driver Christine Kuo Yun-hui couldn’t help but be reminded of her own struggles with a devastating thyroid illness that caused her to fall into a state of depression and almost ruined her career.

The Taiwan-born Canadian actress understands what the kung fu star must be going through, having experienced a nightmarish 10 months in 2013 before being diagnosed with hypothyroidism, an acute disorder of the thyroid gland.

Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are different from each other but they have similar devastating effects, as 34-year-old Kuo can attest.

In layman’s terms, with hypothyroidism, the thyroid gland doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone for the body’s needs. With hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid, the thyroid makes too much.

“Jet Li’s is opposite to what I had. He got hyperthyroidism. I could feel for his helplessness and his frustration in that moment,” said 34-year-old Kuo, a former winner of the Miss Chinese Toronto and Miss Chinese International beauty pageants.

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“We are both public figures and it happened to us. It seems we have been placed in front of an audience. He has experienced many things. I feel in some degree that his attitude is better than mine,” said Kuo of the 55-year-old Beijing-born actor, whose frail looks in a recent photo of him visiting a temple shocked millions of fans as the image went viral.

Li, the movie action hero of Once Upon a Time in China and more recently the Expendables franchise, discovered he had hyperthyroidism in 2010.

Kuo learned of her illness when she started to gain weight for no apparent reason.

“I discovered my illness in 2013 when I started to gain a lot of weight and became very depressed,” said Kuo, a part-time racing driver for Win Motorsport, a Hong Kong-based team that will be competing in this month’s Le Mans endurance race.

“At first, I didn’t know I had this disease. I didn’t expect so many people to write to me sending me messages of support and asking me about this disease,” she said.

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“Through my experience, I found out many people were also suffering from this illness. They see that I have recovered and that gives them hope. This is one good thing about being a public figure. The energy I get from the audience is very positive. If I can get better and if Jet Li can get better, then it makes people more optimistic [about life].”

Before she was diagnosed, Kuo said, the illness “really affected my work”.

“Being in front of a TV screen, people saw I was fat and they were criticising my looks and calling me names, which wasn’t very nice.

“At that time, I had a modelling job which gave me a lot of pressure. I easily got tired and gained a lot of weight. I thought I was just getting fat because I was older and because my metabolism was naturally slowing down. I tried everything to lose weight.

“I tried many different methods to reduce weight. I didn’t eat anything for seven days and went to the gym to do a lot of exercises. But the weight wasn’t coming off. Because I was busy with my work, I didn’t have time to stop and think about it.”

It took her 10 months before she went for a medical check-up and discovered the truth of her condition, she said.

“It was kind of a relief to know what I was dealing with,” said Kuo, star of the TV hit series Ghetto Justice II and Friendly Fire. “It explained many things that I didn’t understand at the time. At last, I knew what I had and I was going to battle this.”

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With her illness properly diagnosed, Kuo was on the road to recovery, but becoming normal – at least in the eyes of the public – came gradually. Her illness was under control after two to three years of medication. Step by step, the weight slowly came off and Kuo’s modelling career and life were back on track.

“During the two to three years of my recovery, I received a lot of support from friends and family. I had to accept this illness. I had to be more patient because this was going to be a long-term battle. I wanted to be cured in a very short period. I tried many methods, Chinese and Western medicine, you name it.

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“But I learned, you can’t push yourself too hard. This is a long-term situation. I followed what the doctor said and paid more attention to my diet, for example.”

Kuo has some sound advice for people who might be suffering from hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism as she tries to bring public awareness of the illnesses.

“Step by step is the best cure and the solution to the problem. Many people have asked me how I managed to be cured. I can only encourage them to keep going. Don’t rush things. Find a good doctor and change your living style. Change your diet and your attitude towards life. I read a lot of books and it helped me to adjust. I gained knowledge. It was a happy journey.”

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Kuo is definitely happier these days. She plans to marry her boyfriend, William Lok, the principal and racing driver of Win Motorsport, at the end of the year and she can look back on her ordeal as something she conquered when all seemed lost.