News anchor learns her lessons

As men and women go through life, there are lessons to be learned. Those lessons go far beyond learning to read, write or do arithmetic. They go far beyond all academic teachings. It’s about what we learn about being human. Lisa Thomas Laury learned it also goes far beyond learning to make it big in television news.

Thomas Laury is a former reporter and news anchor at WPVI, Channel 6, in Philadelphia. She did two stints with the Action News team. She spoke to a banquet room full of members of the Southern Chester County Chamber of Commerce at the Mendenhall Inn on Thursday morning during the chamber’s fifth annual Inspiration Breakfast. She spoke about being ill and about healing and self-love.

She spoke about her early days growing up in Institute, W.Va., about getting started in TV and the now famous people she worked with in their early days — people such as  Diane Sawyer and Oprah Winfrey. She also spoke about illness, overcoming illness and learning to love herself.

“I learned to start loving myself…learned to start forgiving myself. It’s OK to be a bit messy,” said the self-admitted classic Type A personality. “I’m learning to be successful in my soul but it’s not about the material … Each of us has a right to happiness but we can’t have love until we love ourselves.”

What led her to that conclusion was a battle with an illness called POEMS syndrome, a rare blood disorder. The word is actually an acronym of some of the symptoms:

Polyneuropathy, a numbness, tingling and weakness in the legs — and over time, maybe in the hands — and difficulty breathing;

Organomegaly, an enlarged spleen, liver or lymph nodes;

Endocrinopathy, abnormal hormone levels that can result in underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), diabetes, sexual problems, fatigue, swelling in your limbs, and problems with metabolism and other essential functions;

Monoclonal plasmaproliferative disorder, an abnormal bone marrow cells (plasma cells) that produce a protein (monoclonal protein) that can be found in the bloodstream;

Skin changes, more color than normal on your skin, possibly thicker skin and increased facial or leg hair.

The disease hit Thomas Laury hard. Her voice box became paralyzed, she told the audience.

Before it hit, though, she was at the top of her game, she said. She was fit, strong and healthy, working out with a trainer on a regular basis. But in 2001, while walking with her trainer, she noticed some tingling in her legs, ankle and feet.

As the disease progressed, she became weaker and eventually had to leave Channel 6 to get treatment. That, too, was not an easy task. The doctor who diagnosed her left the area and referred her to two other doctors who initially concurred on the diagnosis. But they later changed their minds and for two years treated her for something else using steroids and a blood cleansing. That was no help, she said,  and eventually wound up in a wheelchair and with a paralyzed larynx and vagus nerve.

She soon sought out alternative therapies in Florida. There was some success, but then she saw another doctor in Philadelphia who reconfirmed the original diagnosis of POEMS. That new doctor prescribed bone marrow transplants, which helped.

“I had it done and I started to heal. Everything improved except the nerve damage in my legs and feet. I changed my diet and whole regimen and I went back to work.”

Returning to Channel 6 was a big step. She said many people, even those she didn’t know, had said they prayed for her. “That’s probably what saved me.’

Thomas Laury is now retired and has written a book, “On Camera and Off.”



About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.



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