About Doreen

doreen_skyI developed a chronic back condition when I was only 22 years old after taking a bad fall at a wedding. I caught the bride’s bouquet and returned to my table. Just as I was about to sit down, the photographer came up behind me and took my chair without looking. BAM, down I went and fell flat on my ass! Aside from some major embarrassment, I managed to pick myself up and struggled through the rest of the evening. By the time I got home, I was in so much pain that I ended up in the emergency room where I was treated with muscle relaxers and medication for a severe back spasm. I stayed home from work for over a week, and my life was never the same after that. I was not able to stand, walk, or sit for very long without being in pain. It was the beginning to a continuous cycle of health issues that affected my life on a daily basis. I was on a downward spiral and didn’t know how to cope. I was being controlled by my pain. Other health conditions began to arise that I ignored, thinking they would go away. I was sluggish and exhausted. All along, I just thought I was working too hard. I kept pushing myself to take care of others and ignored myself. Then I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and began a daily regime of thyroid medication. A year or so later, I got married and continued to pursue my career, working long hours. 

In the fall of 1991, my dad was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer. I did everything possible to help make his last days as comfortable as possible. With the help of hospice, I prepared my family for the inevitable. All the while I was feeling so weak, I don’t even know how I got out of bed in the morning, but I did. I was on automatic pilot. I wanted to be close to my family during this time. My husband also just lost his job. We closed up our house and moved in with my mom and dad so I could help take care of Dad at home. I managed to hold down a full-time job with the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) and helped run my parents’ household — cooking, cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping—all the while taking care of Dad and taking him to all of his doctor appointments. On top of that, my parents ran a home heating fuel oil business from their home. My husband helped my brothers run the family business while he was out of work and we were living there.  I answered the business phone and dispatched the oil deliveries and service calls in the evenings. After a four-month long tough battle, my dad passed away peacefully at home. It was such a “gift” to be him that morning as my family and I were all gathered around him when he took his final breath.

It was not easy for me to accept the loss I was feeling in my life at the time. I missed my dad and the special connection we shared. As I began to piece my life back together, I felt myself getting weaker. I had been on thyroid medication for several years at that point when a large visible lump appeared on the left side of my neck.  I began to choke while eating dinner one evening and managed to cough up the food that was lodged in my throat. I immediately made an appointment to see my doctor and underwent a needle biopsy. The results at the time were negative. However, due to the size of the lump, my doctor recommended it be removed.

I was seen by a head and neck surgeon and scheduled my surgery shortly after my consultation.  The surgeon came to see me in the recovery room after the procedure and told me everything was fine.  A few days after I was home from the hospital, the doctor called to let me know that things were not fine after all. I felt like a ton of bricks had just come crashing down on me. I was given a diagnosis of Stage II follicular carcinoma of the thyroid only four months after my dad passed away. After absorbing the shock of this news, I immediately scheduled an appointment with my doctor to discuss what my options were and was advised to decide quickly what the next step would be if I was going to beat the disease. I opted to have another surgery. Within a week, I was back in the hospital undergoing  a complete thyroidectomy. I also underwent subsequent radioactive iodine treatments. Here I was in the prime of my life was barely living my life.

After my thyroid surgery, my weight went from bad to worse.  I was overweight, tired and out of shape and it all seemed to aggravate my painful back condition. I dieted and exercised excessively sometimes twice a day. While I managed to lose weight —  it all came back—it found me. Sound familiar? It was like a game hide and seek.

By the time I was approaching the “BIG 40,” I was a complete mess and almost at a breaking point. I continued to persevere in severe chronic pain and ended up having to undergo three more major surgeries within eleven months. I developed an ovarian tumor that the doctor thought was malignant and which contributed to the pain I was in. I met with two different surgeons, both of whom refused my case. Through the help of my employer at NBC, I was seen by a team of doctors at Memorial Sloane Kettering Cancer Hospital who performed my surgery within a matter of days. While the surgery to remove the tumor was a success, my chronic back pain did not improve. In fact it seemed to get worse. I could barely stand or walk without being in horrific pain most of the time. Five months after my  surgery, I turned to a spinal surgeon for help. Following a battery of tests it was determined that the fall I took several years earlier, along with my thyroid condition, caused the disks in my lower lumbar spine to disintegrate. My doctor recommended I have spinal surgery to stabilize my spine. I underwent an anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF). A cadaver bone, which looks like a champagne cork, was inserted between the disks of my lower back through my abdomen. I knew I had to do something because was not able to live with such unbearable pain. My struggle to get well continued. I even became a certified personal trainer so that I could help my strength-train and get back on my feet and into shape.

Unfortunately, the surgery was not successful. The agonizing pain still gripped me, but something inside kept me going. I felt like I was fighting for my life at that point, and I had two choices: either lie down and die, or get up and somehow keep fighting. Within five months of my first back operation, I needed to have a 360 spinal fusion or I would end-up in crippling pain in a wheelchair. I was pre-fitted for a body brace from my neck to my hips and also had to get a bone stimulator contraption that made me look like something from outer space. Following surgery I had to undergo months of intense physical therapy if I wanted to walk again. It was going to be a long haul.

With all the surgery and pain I was in, I had to leave my job at NBC. I spent almost two years recuperating at home before I was well enough to go back to work. I found a new job and returned to work in New York City and was there for less than a year when I became unemployed following the events of 9/11. My company’s office was across from the World Trade Center. I was on the “E” train heading to work that morning and was at the last stop before the World Trade Center when the train came to an abrupt halt.  I was lucky enough to be in the last car  which remained on the platform when the train stopped. After two hours of horrific fear, with passengers fainting and falling sick from lack of air, the door to the last car finally was opened and we were escorted off the train one by one into a cloud of toxic dust. I saw my entire life pass before me that day. My company was forced to close its doors and I was unemployed for nine months. We had gone through most of our savings during this difficult time. In the interim, I became a hospice volunteer. It was important for me to help others find their peace and serenity with a terminal illness just like I did with my dad.

While searching for work, I made a list of all the things I wanted in a new job. It had to be within a ten-mile commute from home by car; a certain salary, and in the construction field. I manifested the perfect position, exactly as intended. I started my new job, but it wasn’t long before the pain returned. By 2005, I ballooned to a whopping 315 pounds. I had high blood pressure and was on the verge of diabetes. The old familiar advice  from my doctor was to lose weight, but the harder I tried, the more I gained.

I eventually had to undergo another major surgery for a chronic intestinal blockage and adhesions. I was in so much pain and I could not eat without throwing up. It resulted in an open gastric bypass procedure in order to save my life.  The doctor told me he operated just in the nick of time. My intestines were twisted into what looked like a bunch of sausage links that were about to rupture.  No wonder I was in so much pain!

doreen_sunsetBeing the Superwoman that I was, I returned to work nine days following major abdominal surgery. I did everything I could to get well. I lost weight—almost 100 pounds—but something was still missing. I was back to the gym and exercised four to five days a week before going work. One morning after finishing my workout,  I raised my hands up to give thanks and praise to God and I suddenly began to cry. The tears flowed from my eyes like a faucet. I could not stop crying as waves of emotions washed over me. I was so happy to be alive. I thanked God for giving me the courage and strength to keep going. And then it finally hit me—I found the missing piece. The only way I could ever hope to overcome so much of what I was going through was to heal myself physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

My Survive and Thrive coaching program will help you transform your life too. You will learn how to develop the strategies to help you focus on creating a lifestyle to live by, instead of just getting by. I will help you free yourself from the Poor Me Syndrome (“PMS”) and transform you into a Positive Me Success Story (“PMSS”). Chronic pain, illness, disease and addiction are gripping vices. They will grab hold of you and pull you down, but only if you let them.

Work with me and learn how to tap into your inner Goddess and Rocky Spirit to live your best life. Make it happen now and live in the moment!

Join me and sign up for my free workbook! The Secret to Surviving and Thriving is here waiting for you.