Tamara English Pickett (1968 - 2017)

Obituary
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Tamara English Pickett, M.D., passed away in the afternoon of Sept. 23, 2017. She was at home. She is survived by Jeff Pickett and their children Gretta and Wiley; by her parents, William ""Bill"" Deshay English Sr. and Shirley English; by her sister, Sharon English; and by her brother, William Deshay English Jr. (also ""Bill,"" but for Tammy, always ""Billy"").
Though an aggressive cancer ultimately caused her death, it certainly never got the best of her. She fought that 3 ½-year battle with such strength and such grace, people meeting her for the first time were surprised and amazed that her body was then presently under attack by multiple malignancies. At times, even her friends and family were at risk of forgetting.
Tammy's life began in Seattle, Wash., but quickly returned to her forbears' home in Alaska. Her Grandma Mary was Inupiaq from the Anaktuvuk Pass/Upper Koyukuk region. Her grandfather, also William Deshay English, ran the store in Wiseman, Alaska. With the passage of ANCSA in 1971, Tammy became a CIRI shareholder. Later in life, Tammy often described feeling the presence of Grandma Mary and her way of experiencing the world. It was this presence, and the example of her mom, Shirley, that led to Tammy's deep interest in alternative forms of healing and complementary medicine.
Tammy was the perfect amalgam of her father and her mother. She possessed her dad's intellect, determination and graciousness. She possessed her mom's wisdom, kindness and generosity. Tammy attended East High School in Anchorage, Alaska, where her father's intellect served her well. She excelled. She also ran roughshod over everyone on the tennis court. Tennis was a huge part of her teenage years, and she won state-wide tournaments, competed in national tournaments and generally set tennis courts on fire. It is true that her strokes were classic and beautiful, but it was her steely determination and focus that brought her success.
Tammy went to Stanford as a curly-haired 17-year-old. There she met Jeff Pickett, who lived in an adjacent dorm. They began a relationship that stretched over 30 years and produced two extraordinary children, Gretta (18) and Wiley (15). Tammy's innate curiosity led her to study many things at Stanford, culminating in a degree in economics.
After spending two years post-college working in the tech industry in Silicon Valley, Tammy decided medical school would be her next adventure. She married Jeff and enrolled at the University of Washington Medical School. She adopted a dog named Lucy, the first of several, and fell in love. Tammy chose to specialize in family medicine and began her residency, pregnant with Gretta, at Providence Hospital in Anchorage. Undertaking an intern year pregnant with and nursing a newborn is not easy, but Tammy made it look that way.
Tammy's first and only post-residency job was as a primary care physician at Southcentral Foundation in Anchorage. It was her only job because she loved it. She admired her colleagues and was devoted to Southcentral's vision of a Native community that enjoys physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellness. Apart from occasional exhaustion, she took great joy in her work.
Tammy's taste in music was varied. Her favorite band in high school was the Scorpions. In college she delighted in Axl Rose's snake dance in the Guns N' Roses' ""Sweet Child of Mine"" video. Inexplicably, in the 2000s she developed a profound irritation with the Dropkick Murphys. Most recently her favorite song was ""I Still Believe"" by the Call. It is worth a listen.
Tammy had many passions. She loved to run, hike, race, bike - anything that involved moving across the earth outdoors. She was ambivalent about swimming, but that did not prevent her from competing in several mother-daughter triathlons with Gretta. Tammy loved watching Wiley play basketball, and she was a vocal proponent of her son's exploits on the court. She also loved rescue dogs, of which she had several. Louie was her most recent, and she loved him as much as any person could. He returned the sentiment.
Tammy was also passionate about chocolate and tea, both of which will be featured at the reception following her service. Tammy's desire was that the service be a celebration not just of her life, but of her friends and family for whom she felt a deep and abiding love; she wanted it to encapsulate her notion of a vibrant spiritual energy enveloping all of us. That celebration will commence at 6 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, at St. Mary's Episcopal Church on the southwest corner of Tudor and Lake Otis.
Among many other things, Tammy was extraordinarily tough. When she was 10 weeks pregnant with Wiley, she was diagnosed with leukemia. She forewent treatment for the next seven months, watching her white blood cell counts skyrocket. She started chemo immediately after delivering Wiley, and when that didn't work, moved with her young family to Seattle for a bone-marrow transplant. She was in the transplant ward for a shorter time than any other patient treated there. That was not surprising. More recently, in the midst of a brutal chemo treatment, she beat Gretta in a 50-yard footrace on the Park Strip (in Gretta's defense, she had just had surgery for a torn ACL).
While her death at such a young age feels close to devastating for her family and friends, that was not how Tammy wanted them to experience it. She was at peace with what was coming, and coming quickly, and she reminded her children at every opportunity that she was not actually leaving because she would always be loving them from above.
She will be missed.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in Tammy's memory to Alaskan Animal Rescue Friends or Friends of Pets.
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Published in Anchorage Daily News on Sept. 28, 2017