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Suzy Fredericks, 55: The Hero of My Own Story

Not letting her MS define her, Suzy Fredericks is living life fully, with gratitude, a healthy lifestyle, a positive mindset, and a fantastic community. And she’s crushing it at the gym.

We can be defined by a label or not. That label could be age related, shape related or, in the case of Suzy Fredericks, a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. We can also choose not to let a label define us, and live life as more than a label. This is what Suzy chose.

Life can be hard. Sometimes things happen, and we need to deal with them. Surrender can mean accepting one’s situation and then taking actions to help one’s self; it doesn’t have to mean we are powerless. We accept what we can’t change, and then bravely move onto the things we can have a positive effect on.

Suzy has MS, a serious neurological disease. She has taken the initiative to live her life fully, found solutions that work for her, and is stronger now at 55 than she has ever been in her life. She has also found the gift of community, sharing her experience with others who may be quite fearful, and, in her new career as a high school teacher, sharing her journey with teens who need a role model for overcoming adversity.

suzy fredericks, MS

“I’ve lived with MS for more of my life than I’ve lived without it”

How old are you, Suzy?
I am 55 years old. I’m calling this my “jazz hands” year. 

Where are you from and where are you based?
I was born and raised in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. I lived in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania for a short period of time after graduating from college. Eventually, I moved back to Pottsville, where I live today.

When were you diagnosed with MS?
I was diagnosed with MS 29 years ago when I was 26 years old. I’ve lived with MS for more of my life than I’ve lived without it. 

My MS diagnosis happened after a series of neurological events in my 20s. My first neurological symptom was not being able to tell the difference between hot and cold water in the shower. Then came optical neuritis that caused double vision and a lazy right eye. I had to wear a patch on my left eye for quite some time. This helped me pull my right eye forward. Next, acute visual vertigo landed me in the hospital. Doctors suspected MS at that time, but another neurological event, a positive MRI scan, and a positive spinal tap was necessary to confirm the diagnosis. The MS diagnosis came rather quickly after waking up to my entire body numb. The MRI scan of my brain showed so many lesions that it was impossible for doctors to count them all.

“Life is tough, but a tough life can transform a person into the best version of themselves and that’s exactly what MS did to me”

How did MS change your life?
I used to be afraid of MS, but I’m not anymore. I am stronger and have more energy than I had when I was in my 20s. Life is tough, but a tough life can transform a person into the best version of themselves and that’s exactly what MS did to me. I’m 55 years old, and I’m in the best shape of my entire life. MS may have given me lesions on my brain and spinal cord, but it also gave me so much more. It pushes me in the right direction so that I make healthy choices every day of my life.

I live a much healthier lifestyle now than when I was younger. Looking back, I never could have imagined that I’d become the strong, resilient woman that I am today. MS has transformed me from a powerless victim into the hero of my own story. I used to hide all my imperfections until one day I realized that owning my MS story gave hope to others. Increased strength, courage, resilience, gratitude, and empathy make up my MS silver lining.

suzy fredericks, MS

What is MS and how is it currently treated?
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that affects your central nervous system. It is a disease more commonly found in women than men. MS disrupts the communication between your brain and the rest of your body by attacking the myelin sheath. That’s the protective cover surrounding your brain and spinal cord. It’s a scary, unpredictable, and sometimes very disabling disease. It can cause muscle weakness, difficulty moving, lack of coordination, balance problems, changes in vision, loss of sensation, memory issues, chronic fatigue, spasticity, and pain.

The four types of MS are: Clinically Isolate Syndrome, Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis (RRMS), Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis, and Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis. I have RRMS, which is the most common type of MS. With RRMS, you have periods of exacerbation and remission, which correspond to symptoms flaring and then calming down. MS is an unpredictable disease that can progress at any given time to the next level. Knowing this is both scary as hell and empowering as hell at the same time. It keeps me making the best choices for my health everyday in hopes that I stay where I’m at and don’t move on to the next level of MS.

There’s currently no cure for MS, unfortunately. The treatment options for MS focus on speeding up the recovery from flares, reducing the number of relapses, slowing disease progression, and managing symptoms. Disease-Modifying Therapies (DMTs), diet and lifestyle adjustments, integrative/functional medicine, and Low-Dose Naltrexone (LDN) are the current options for treatment. There’s also a new and promising stem cell therapy out there called hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). HSCT is currently undergoing clinical trials around the world. A few of my Instagram friends are currently involved in these HSCT clinical trials and they are currently doing very well.

What are some of the interventions you have done that you find effective?
I’ve never taken a DMT for MS because the side effects of the drugs have always scared me more than MS. I know that someday I may not have that choice, but for now I choose to fight MS with a healthy lifestyle that includes a low-inflammatory diet, physical therapy, stress management, cold showers, red-light therapy, and supplements like turmeric, alpha-lipoic acid, vitamin D3, biotin, B12, magnesium, omega 3, and a probiotic, in addition to 4mg of LDN every night. LDN is an off-label therapy for MS and other autoimmune diseases. I believe that all of my interventions play a role in managing my MS. I’m always searching for new and improved natural ways to manage my MS.

“The secret to happiness isn’t about what you have; it’s about being grateful for what you have”

How do you use prayer and gratitude? 
I pray often. Prayer brings me closer to God and calms me when I feel anxious or fearful about something.

The secret to happiness isn’t about what you have; it’s about being grateful for what you have. 

Expressing gratitude amps up the positive feeling inside of me. I am so blessed, and I often share that feeling of gratitude with others. It amps up the feeling of gratitude within me and can have a domino effect.

What was your discovery process as to finding what worked for you and how much of an effect it had? 
I decided to go gluten-free several years ago when I was having a relapse. My doctor encouraged me to start a DMT but, before I went in that direction, I wanted to see if a gluten-free diet could possibly help. I gave the gluten-free diet 2 months to see if my symptoms improved, and they did. I also noticed that I no longer needed allergy shots after being gluten-free. Two months is my time frame that I give a new intervention when I’m in the discovery process. After two months, I decide if the intervention had a positive effect, no effect, or a negative effect on my health, after which I decide if I should continue.

suzy fredericks, MS

If you skip doing one of your interventions, does it cause a flare up?
There have been times in the past when I cheated on my gluten-free diet a bit and had a bite of a cookie, a bite of pizza, or a few sips of beer, but I quickly noticed that my allergy symptoms returned in full force. I’m incredibly diligent with my interventions. They are my MS therapies, and I can’t afford to skip them. Fear is a powerful motivator.

Are there any triggers that cause you to have symptoms?
Anything that causes my body to overheat can trigger an MS flare. Something as simple as being outside when it’s hot can trigger my MS symptoms. Any illness like a cold or the flu can cause an MS flare. Hot tubs, saunas, hot showers and baths can also trigger an MS flare. 

“The MS community on Instagram is the most inspiring thing that I’ve ever been part of”

Tell us about the MS community.
I first started using Instagram two and a half years ago, and at that time I used it to communicate with friends and view entertaining content. The first MS site that I followed was @mssociety, the National MS Society, which focuses on empowering people affected by MS to live their best lives. In the beginning, I viewed the posts from @mssociety but I didn’t read many of the stories about the lives affected by MS and didn’t share personal information about my MS story. One day, it dawned on me that I owe it to myself and others to be more transparent about my journey.

Several months ago, I commented on the National MS Societies Instagram page and shared a bit of my MS journey. Late that night, I received a request to chat with a young woman from Australia named Atousa. She was recently diagnosed with MS at that time. She was very afraid and wanted to talk to someone who has been in that situation. We talked that night for almost an hour and became instant friends. We still chat to this day. Atousa had a lot of questions for me, and I tried my best to answer all of her questions. She thanked me that night and told me how much she appreciated my support. Those simple words motivated me to continue to share my MS story with people from all over the world, and Instagram is the perfect outlet for just that.

The MS community on Instagram is the most inspiring thing that I’ve ever been part of. It’s made up of people from all over the world, and each person has their own unique story. I have friends with MS from places like Australia, India, Canada, the Netherlands, Argentina, Croatia, Spain, the Philippines, Italy, and even more. Some of my friends had been diagnosed with MS as early as 11, while others had their diagnosis in their 50s.

Some are competing and currently soaring to the top of the Ms. Health & Fitness Competition like Laura, some are incredible artists like Tim, some are amazing photographers like Andrezza and Matthew, some are incredible runners like Roman and Jonathon, and some are the most incredible, uplifting human beings who make the absolute best of their lives despite having Progressive MS like Mark. The one common thread that we all have is that we all fight the same disease, and we all hope for a cure. 

I’ve spent most of my life with MS feeling alone. Even though I have an excellent support system made up of a loving family and incredible friends, it’s difficult to understand what it feels like to have MS unless you actually have MS. This community from around the world means the world to me, and I am so happy to be a part of it all.

suzy fredericks, MS

“Diet is so important to everyone; especially if you have a chronic disease like MS”

You’ve said you’re in the best shape of your life. Can you tell us about your health and workout routines? 
Diet is so important for everyone; especially if you have a chronic disease like MS. Lifestyle factors like healthy eating and regular exercise can have a positive effect on MS.

My gluten-free, dairy-free diet is filled with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, lean proteins like fish, chicken, and turkey, and healthy fats, with a limited amount of carbs, red meat, processed foods, and added sugars. 

I intermittently fast from 7:00pm to 11:00am to complete a 16-hour fast which is surprisingly easy for me. It may seem odd, but I never feel hungry during that period. I have a delicious and nutritious blueberry, banana, flax seed protein shake for lunch on most days. My mid-day snack is either a cup of nuts and dried fruit, oatmeal, or a piece of fresh fruit. My dinners consist of a lean protein, two servings of vegetables, and a healthy starch. When I get a sweet tooth, I usually go for dairy-free ice cream, which is quite delicious.

“Being able to strength-train hardcore like I do, at age 55 with MS, is an incredibly empowering feeling and an absolute gift, in my mind”

I really enjoy my workout routine at the gym, and it never feels like a chore. Being able to strength-train hardcore like I do, at age 55 with MS, is an incredibly empowering feeling and an absolute gift, in my mind. My workout routine takes an hour and 45 minutes. It always begins with 30 minutes of cardio, followed by 1 hour of strength training, and 10 to 15 minutes of stretching. I work on my core on most days and alternate my focus on strength training the upper and lower halves of my body. 

What do you do to reduce your stress — guessing that stress is not great for MS?
Stress can damage a person’s health in so many ways. Stress can aggravate existing MS symptoms or cause a flare up so it’s important for me to minimize stress. Exercise is my #1 stress-relief strategy, but other activities like reading, walking my dog Lucy, hiking, gardening, meditating, deep breathing, praying, making jewelry, and watercolor painting also help me to reduce the stress in my life.

Tell us about your career as an engineer turned teacher. Why did you go from a practical application to teaching physics?
I graduated from The Pennsylvania State University in December of 1991 with a BS Degree in Civil Engineering. I worked as an engineer for three years until Multiple Sclerosis turned my whole world upside down, causing me to take a medical leave of absence. During my medical leave, I decided to go back to school to be a high school Physics teacher because I believed that I would make a bigger impact in this world as a teacher. This year marks my 20th year teaching high school Physics, and I am happy to say that I’ve never regretted this decision.

“My most important role as a teacher is showing my students by example that when life gets tough and throws you a curve ball that you can get through it and be stronger and more resilient because of it all”

suzy fredericks, MS

Does having MS inform your relationship with your students? 
Being transparent about my MS with my students wasn’t something that I felt comfortable doing until recently. The Covid pandemic hit students hard all over the world. Depression and suicide rates in kids and young adults skyrocketed. Kids have so much on their plates right now, more than ever before. They lost so much in those two years that they’ll never get back, and knowing that has changed me as a teacher. I used to think that my most important role as a teacher was teaching the science curriculum with effective teaching strategies, but I don’t believe that anymore.

My most important role as a teacher is showing my students by example that when life gets tough and throws you a curve ball that you can get through it and be stronger and more resilient because of it all. I want my students to know about my life with MS in hopes that it someday gives them a bit of hope when they need it the most. That’s why I decided to become more transparent about my MS with my students, and it’s definitely had a positive effect on my relationship with my students.

What is your message to others that may have medical challenges?
Be an advocate for yourself and don’t give up. Get a second opinion and, if needed, a third. No one else knows what it feels like to be you. Educate yourself, find an online support group, and become informed about your diagnosis and the treatment options. Look into functional medicine and how diet and lifestyle can affect your outcome. Don’t do something that doesn’t feel right to you. It’s ok to say no; it’s your body.

What are your goals for the next 10 years?
Health is wealth…so my primary goal is to stay healthy by continuing to do all that I do for my health and wellbeing. Continue to improve upon my strength, flexibility, balance, and endurance with exercise. Keep a positive attitude. Read a new book every month. Express myself more artistically with watercolor paints and metal art. Travel to a new place every year. Play a bigger role as an MS advocate, and become a certified health coach for MS.

What are your 3 non-negotiables in life? 
Pay it forward.
Count your blessings.
Never give up.

Connect with Suzy:

Suzy’s recommended resource on MS.

See medical disclaimer below. ↓


  1. Thankyou for sharing your story and putting into words what so many of us struggle too!
    Truly inspiring, needed this lift!
    I have MS, MS doesn’t have me!

  2. I am lucky to call Suzi my friend. She is an inspiration on a daily basis and keeps me motivated to be the best version of me.

  3. I was diagnosed about 9 moths ago and reading this makes me feel encouraged that my life does not need to get increasingly worse from here.

  4. I have been alongside Suzy for many years in her journey with MS as a very close friend. I can say they she just keeps improving with age! I am so happy to see her come to peace with her MS and not let it define her. She is beautiful inside and out. So wonderful to see her share this journey.


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The ideas expressed here are solely the opinions of the author and are not researched or verified by AGEIST LLC, or anyone associated with AGEIST LLC. This material should not be construed as medical advice or recommendation, it is for informational use only. We encourage all readers to discuss with your qualified practitioners the relevance of the application of any of these ideas to your life. The recommendations contained herein are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. You should always consult your physician or other qualified health provider before starting any new treatment or stopping any treatment that has been prescribed for you by your physician or other qualified health provider. Please call your doctor or 911 immediately if you think you may have a medical or psychiatric emergency.


David Stewart
David is the founder and face of AGEIST. He is an expert on, and a passionate champion of the emerging global over-50 lifestyle. A dynamic speaker, he is available for panels, keynotes and informational talks at david@agei.st.


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