Suzanne’s Story 

Suzanne was diagnosed at age 14 with rheumatoid arthritis. Her rheumatologist told her that she would be in a wheelchair by the time she reached age 50. She’s proved that doctor wrong.  

Dr. Suzanne Dashiell Elder was diagnosed at age 14 with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).  Her first rheumatologist told her that she should be prepared to be in a wheelchair by the time she reached age 50.  Now, 36 years later, she’s 50 years old and has proved that doctor wrong. Not only is she walking without any medical aids, she has a full-time career as a high school science teacher and is a full-time mother to three amazing children.    

Even though Suzanne has tried almost every medication and has had over 10 surgeries ranging from bone fusions to joint replacements, she feels fortunate. Living with RA has molded her character and she believes that hard work and persistence trumps all.  Unfortunately, at age 38, Suzanne experienced another setback by being diagnosed with fibromyalgia, which has caused even more widespread pain over every part of her body.  Even though each day is a struggle and filled with pain, she is very determined to take control of the disease and not let it control of her. 

Living with chronic pain takes its toll both physically and emotionally, but Suzanne believes it’s very important to focus on what you can do and not dwell on what you cannot do.  Suzanne had to give up playing competitive sports and stop playing the violin and guitar due to her illnesses, which were devastating to her.  But learning to focus on the positives, she was able to earn her master’s and doctorate degrees. She worked in research at the National Institutes of Health before becoming a biology teacher at Urbana High School, where she was awarded the 2012 Maryland STEM Teacher of the Year.  

She enjoys working with students and making positive impacts daily. She does her best to be actively involved in her personal life with her children.  She coaches her daughters’ softball team and loves watching her son’s baseball games.  And she is proud to tell everyone that she has attended over 300 concerts in her lifetime.