MERIDIAN TOWNSHIP - Susan Barry said her son TJ was a star athlete, with all A's and determined to go to dental school.
The family first noticed the weight loss when he took off his shirt at a pool party the summer going into ninth grade.
She didn't waste any time, she was on the phone the next day to try and figure out what was wrong with her son. The doctor's response was that TJ had an eating disorder, and so began an 8-year battle with a disease that took over his mind, relationships and his health. TJ's heart gave out on Valentine's Day in 2007 at the age of 22.
"When they sent home 22 boxes from Marquette University, one of those boxes contained his lock box," said Susan. "It was journals, photographs he had taken of himself, poetry he had written."
Susan compiled his story into a book, "Dying to be Perfect" intended as a guide for parents and she hoped had the ability to save other people that were struggling with this disease.
However one of the biggest problems Susan said they faced with TJ, was finding the right person to turn to for help. A Healing Place opened in Jackson, Mich. this year with an eating disorder clinic named after TJ, and another girl Britt, who both lost their lives to eating disorders. Britt and TJ's place has therapists that have overcome eating disorders themselves and can relate to their clients.
"Knowing, you know, what it does to your mind and the behaviors of it, we can see it and we can understand it," said a therapist and part owner of Britt and TJ's Place, Betsy Vickers. "We can give them hope that recovery is possible."
"I showed that this could be anybody's kid," said Susan Barry. "No one ever called me up and said we were worried about TJ, that's how good he was at hiding it and that's how low the awareness is."