Employee Giveback Spotlight: Walking to End MS

GUEST WRITER: Tracy Swan, director of Visual Production at Macy’s, Inc.

Localized community involvement and a strong commitment to giving back are at the heart of the Macy’s brand. This is largely thanks to a network of passionate Associates who make it a priority, such as Tracy Swan, director of Visual Production and one of Macy’s team leaders for the annual National Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society walk in New York City. We’re sharing this inspiring story about Tracy’s personal journey with MS and what inspired her to get involved in a meaningful way. With every step, this Macy’s team is walking to end MS forever. Tracy’s story of leadership, courage, and commitment to help others embodies our dedicated spirit at Macy’s.

My story is like many of the 2.5 million people diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). I had no family history of MS and no apparent warnings. All it took was one sudden episode for me to realize I might have this condition. 

My journey started in May of 2008.  I had what I thought to be a simple pinched nerve for a couple of days and set up an appointment with a neurologist to have it checked out the following week.  I never made it to that appointment.  Two days before that scheduled visit, I woke up to the sudden shock that my entire left side was numb. 

I could not walk and had no use of my left hand. I immediately called that same neurologist for an emergency appointment.  

After a few simple sensory and coordination tests, I was sent to the hospital. What came next was a lot of tests, referrals for strengthening therapy, and meeting nearly every department of the hospital at my bedside.  Finally, my neurologist recommended I visit an MS specialist. 

A mere 10 minutes into the exam I had my diagnosis. I knew what MS was, but I didn’t know how it happened to me. The doctor suggested I read about the condition, but not too much. I understood why as I started my personal research; every person is affected by MS uniquely. Learning about every possible outcome was quite daunting.  

MS for many patients is an “invisible” disease. People may reactively say “you look fine.” Most, if not all symptoms are completely hidden from others. It is not easy to explain to someone else that a “bad day” can be as simple as an everyday activity causing exhaustion, not being able to focus or connect your thoughts, or being in pain for what seems to be no reason at all. 

Fast forward to 2013: I had learned about Walk MS NYC and I decided to participate.  Someone suggested I see if Macy’s had a team, and I learned that it did not.  From that moment, I decided to create and captain a Macy’s team for the MS walk. I started recruiting and fundraising. That year, we had 12 walkers and raised approximately $3,000.  I was determined to keep our momentum going each year, continuing to spread the word about supporting MS in the NYC area.  In 2016, we had a monumental year. Not only did we have more than 50 people at the walk, but we had another 150 people join us “virtually” and collectively raised nearly $20,000. Adding to that excitement, we earned the esteemed privilege of cutting the ribbon at the starting line and I was asked to be the mission speaker during the opening ceremony. 

The Macy’s NYC team is now getting ready for our fourth year at the walk on April 30 and I’m still driven to see what this team can do to support the more than 12,000 people in the NYC area affected by MS every day. 

I never would have thought that MS would be a part of my fate. It is nearly nine years since that diagnosis, and while I’m trying to take care of myself each day to maintain my current quality of life, I have also tried to do my part by building awareness for this disease. Through that time, I am thankful for the support that Macy’s and my visual team “family” have given to me, and especially thankful for my Macy’s walk team. Every step we make is a stride to end MS forever. 

To find a walk in your area, check out the national Walk MS page