North Florida teen inspires others while battling multiple sclerosis

Sydney Lewis was diagnosed with MS at 17, but she didn’t let it end her softball season.
Published: Sep. 23, 2020 at 2:46 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Multiple sclerosis affects nearly 1 million people in the United States, including a North Florida teen who has one of the rarest kinds of all.

Sydney Lewis was diagnosed when she was a senior in high school. She was just 17 years old.

Now just over a year later, she is sharing her story and hopes it will resonate with young people far beyond her hometown of Green Cove Springs.

Lewis knew something was terribly wrong. She kept blacking out and drooling, but the star softball player kept it under wraps for days because she wanted to play.

“I kept blaming it on, ‘Oh, I’m tired. I’m not eating right. I need to get more rest.’ But it was more serious than that,” Lewis said.

Sydney’s dad is also her softball coach at Clay High School. An assistant coach was the first to raise a red flag, and within two days, doctors diagnosed Syndey with a rare form of multiple sclerosis called Tumefactive MS.

“What’s going to happen? I’m letting my team down. I’m letting my family down. I’m two months from graduation. Am I going to be able to walk at graduation?” Lewis said. “I was absolutely devastated. I thought my life was completely over. I thought I was going to die and I was afraid of what kind of treatment I was going to have to go through.”

For Sydney and her dad, it was Google time. Neither one knew much about multiple sclerosis.

“I couldn’t stop crying, you know?” her father, Matt Lewis, said. “Anybody who has kids, you know. You see your kid hurting, you want to fix it. Take this all away from them, put it on you. Take a baseball bat to my knees. I don’t care, just don’t do it to my kid.”

Sydney was hospitalized and received 10 rounds of high dose steroid treatments. She returned to the softball field within weeks and later graduated with her class.

“I couldn’t be more proud as a dad. I got to hand her diploma as she walked across the stage. I got to take her to college, help her move into her dorm,” Matt Lewis said. “And you can’t be proud enough that she’s stepping out and doing everything that she is.”

Sydney is now a sophomore at the University of Florida, studying mathematics.

She takes medication daily and shares her story whenever she can. She’s a featured speaker at Tallahassee’s virtual On the Move luncheon.

“I want people to know that everyone has something they’re dealing with whether you can see it or not. Looking at me as I’m walking down the street, you would have no idea. I look just like everyone else, but i want people to understand that people with MS, they may look the same and you may think, oh, they don’t look sick, they don’t have anything wrong with them, it’s a really internal disease,” Lewis said. “It messes with your mind and your body and you have to deal with certain things throughout the day that many people don’t have to go through like extreme exhaustion, overheating, your mind spinning round and round in circles.”

WCTV’s Julie Montanaro will be hosting Thursday’s On the Move luncheon and because it’s virtual this year, anyone can attend for free.

Sydney Lewis will be sharing her story and a neurologist will discuss the unique challenges of battling MS during the pandemic. Dr. Tirisham Gyang specializes in multiple sclerosis and has worked as the director at the University of Florida’s MS clinical fellowship program.

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