If Tracey Miller had any idea that she could hide her MS, it didn’t last long. Diagnosed within a couple of months of being named principal of an elementary school in the Seattle area, she had to be pretty open almost from the start. “Kids are smarter than we think they are,” she explained. “They would notice days when my balance was off, when I needed to use a cane.”
Instead, Miller decided to let her disease become a way to help students understand the challenges that many people face. “I wanted them to know how to be strong, healthy and empowered,” she said. “I would tell them that MS equals multiple scars. ‘You may have scars on your knee. Well, Mrs. Miller has scars on her brain and spinal cord.’ I didn’t want it to be scary, but I did want them to understand people have disabilities, not just MS.”
The Parent Teacher Student Association supported her fully, throwing its endorsement behind many MS fundraising events at the school: a mini-Walk MS, a bake sale, making posters. “The students enjoyed it,” Miller said. “They like helping others.”
However, her MS progressed over the next few years, and this year Tracey took a medical leave. “I told the school board that if I ever couldn’t do the job 100%, I would cut back or step aside,” she said. “Kids and their education are a serious business.”
She continues to volunteer at the school, which still sponsors fundraising events. “I have amazing colleagues and community to support me,” she said. She also does MS education and has helped with several Walk MS events.
“I do the best I can with the challenges I have. I used to run half marathons and now I have hard time walking,” Miller said. “Nonetheless, I’m fortunate that I’ve added a lot of meaningful volunteer opportunities. MS has changed what I do, but it hasn’t stopped me.”