By Mike Shackelford
Tracy Shackelford, my wife, passed away in August 2021 after a long battle with myasthenia gravis. She will be dearly missed by family and friends. She and I had nearly 30 years together (26 married), and she was a very special person. Let me share a little bit with you.
Tracy grew up in Wisconsin, mainly in the scenic La Crosse area. She was always outgoing and very intelligent. She received scholarships to the University of Wisconsin – Madison, where she got a B.S. and M.S. in Nuclear Engineering (pretty impressive stuff)! After graduating, she worked for ComEd, focusing on Nuclear Plant safety systems. After about six years there, we had a daughter, and Tracy decided she would rather focus on motherhood and all the joy that comes with raising a child. Eventually, she missed working, and studied for certification as a Nuclear Medicine Technologist (NMT), to work on PET-CT scanners. It amazed me how much one had to learn to get certified in this; no small accomplishment. She loved this job very much as she was able to help people out, and she was very good at this.
While working as a NMT, the signs that she had MG appeared. First it was just a problem with vision in one eye, and over time evolved into full body weakness. Tracy was rightfully upset when she had to resign as an NMT, a job which truly brought her joy. Simple things like taking the dog for a walk, a bike ride, climbing stairs, and eventually even having the strength to brush her teeth became a daily challenge.
Tracy had great MG doctors at the University of Illinois – Chicago. She tried many types of medications and treatments, but nothing really seemed to work. Through all of the drugs, tests, and procedures that she endured, she always would try to maintain a positive attitude. The nurses loved to be with her. Tracy would also love to bake cookies or muffins when she had moments of strength to bring in to the nurse staff. Again, she was always thinking of others.
Tracy was active in the MG community. She was always giving advice in MG Facebook groups, or just being a friend to somebody who needed a boost. Additionally, we would attend several MG walks in the Chicago suburbs, which was a great way to meet people in person with similar stories and contribute to the cause. In 2020, she saw an opportunity to join Conquer MG as a member of the board, focusing on social media activities. She really loved her job and it made her very proud to contribute to this organization.
The loss of Tracy has created a hole in the lives of anybody that knew her. She was a kind spirit, always giving help and love to others. She was a fighter as so many who suffer with MG are. She never gave up hope though. Someday there will be cures or treatments which really impact quality of life for people with MG. It’s important for us to all give to this cause so that can be a reality for the future, and talk with your friends about this disease, as it is not very well known to the public.
A Note from Conquer MG
Tracy made a big impact during her short tenure as Conquer MG Board Trustee. She rolled up her sleeves with social media, the Viking Challenge, Wellness Committee, and represented Conquer MG at the virtual NORD conference. Long before she joined the Board, we knew Tracy for her compassion and concern for others with MG. We thank Mike for sharing this tribute. – Conquer MG Board and Staff