Tuesday, January 13, 2004
Went to Wal-mart today with mom to pick up a few necessities like diapers and laundry detergent. While there I ran into the mother of an old friend of mine from High School. Well, I should say she ran into me. I was finished shopping and was waiting for mom by the produce section when Tammy's mom noticed me and said my name. Of course I recognized her right away and we spent a long time just chatting.
You see, Tammy passed away in 2000 of cancer. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer years earlier, had beaten it but evidently didn't keep up with her scheduled screenings and the cancer re-appeared with a vengeance. By the time she died it had hit her brain and no amount of chemotheraphy or surgery was going to save her life.
I remember when I found out about Tammy's death it was through an e-mail from her husband, Scott. I hadn't even known she was sick again. Neither did any of her old friends from High School who also were notified by Scott of her death.
Tammy had been suffering from a debilitating depression for several years. I'm guessing that was a big part of why she didn't keep up with her screenings. Sad really because even though in college she and I had grown apart (mainly because I didn't like her boyfriend) she was always my friend.
I met Tammy in junior high school. She was always sitting by herself waiting for the bus and since I didn't have anyone to talk to either I struck up a conversation with her one day. She was reading a Star Trek novel and I liked Star Trek so it seemed like a good beginning. Day after day we'd meet at the bus circle and chat about Star Trek and the club she belonged to (STAR OKC).
Tammy was incredibly intelligent but very shy. She was also overweight and kids would make fun of her for that. As a result she didn't have many friends. I like to think that I helped draw her out of that shell a little bit because by the time we hit High School she sat with me and a big group of friends at lunch every day. She also talked more and seemed to have gained a level of confidence that eluded her in junior high.
But even then she suffered from depression. I would pick her up for school every day and sometimes she'd meet me at the door saying she wasn't going because she didn't feel well. I knew she wasn't sick though. She was depressed. Even with all of her talents—art, writing, a quick wit—she was still trapped by the stigma of being the fat girl.
During high school, she lost weight by dieting through the Weight Watchers program if I'm remembering correctly but she eventually gave in and had stomach reduction surgery. Of course the pounds melted off and by our senior year of high school Tammy was no longer heavy. That didn't help the depression though. I'm sure it was hard to overcome years of torture by cruel children.
We drifted apart in college. That's easy to do when you're attending classes for totally different degree programs. Plus, I didn't like her boyfriend. Yes, I'm a judgmental bitch sometimes. And I was married, going to school and working. Not to mention being very involved in Tammy's old science fiction club, STAR OKC.
I graduated and Mike and I moved to NYC. Tammy and her husband (the aforementioned boyfriend, Scott) moved to Atlanta and worked for the CDC.
I didn't hear from Tammy for several years beyond hearing from a mutual friend who kept in better contact with her that Tammy and Scott had moved to California. When we moved back to Okahoma I got back in touch with her through e-mail and we talked a bit but then she disappeared again. I was dealing with a new child and trying to get a former rent house of my mother-in-law's into a liveable condition so it was very easy for time to get away from me.
It seems like the next time I talked to her she mentioned that she was going through a bout of severe depression and agoraphobia. So severe that she was on disability and no longer able to handle working outside the home. She related that even interacting on the computer sometimes gave her panic attacks.
I wish now I had made more of an effort to find out what was going on in her life. I'm sure if I'd sicced Tracey on it she would have gotten ahold of that like a bulldog and not let go until she'd found out everything. That's a big failing of mine though. I often sit back and wait for people to come to me figuring if someone wants me to know something they'll tell me.
And then I got the notice via e-mail that she had died. My first thought was what a waste. She had so much going for her but mental illness and now cancer had robbed her of all of that. And it robbed me of the chance to get to know my friend again.
Tammy's mom seems to be doing okay but I know she misses Tammy terribly. When my twentieth High School reunion rolls around this summer I know I'll miss her all over again.
posted by Tamara - 12:34 PM -- Link to this entry
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