Have You Met?

It has been a challenging, but courageous and triumphant journey for Lori Frisher.  She’s overcome so much in her young and now highly successful life.  Her severe hearing disability was first discovered by her parents when she was a toddler, and she was fitted with hearing aids.

Even with the hearing aids, she still struggled with hearing difficulties.  Lori felt different because as a teenager she couldn’t hear well, but didn’t want to be noticed as someone who was different.  She didn’t want to be a problem or have to explain the realities of what she was dealing with.

An avid tennis player in college, she became the school’s first commencement speaker with a disability.  She went on to establish a career in advertising, sales and marketing and worked with Disaboom, an online information resource for people with disabilities as their VP of Marketing and Business Development.

As Lori and I sat and enjoyed breakfast recently, she looked like the picture of health, beauty and happiness.  As from the first phone message I got from her, she speaks clearly and intelligently.  My first reaction after meeting her was how together, calm and grounded she is.  If I didn’t already know Lori’s story, I would never have guessed she had dealt with a hearing disability for over 30 years or that she had survived two bouts of stage three melanoma cancer in 1998 and 2005.

Lori discovered a new found freedom when she was the first person in the world to receive the newly FDA approved Esteem implant hearing device along with her Cochlear implant. The Esteem implant Lori received in 2010, was created by a Minnesota-based company called Envoy Medical.  Unlike external hearing aids, Envoy’s technology, implanted in the ear, is invisible.  Frisher says: "I experienced a miraculous awakening to sounds that I never heard before!"

Once socially insecure, there’s no sign of that now. With Lori’s words, she commands your attention. She’s bright, enlightened and effervescent.  She’s already done her share of public speaking on behalf of her causes, and Frisher is very involved with organizations such as Cancer League of Colorado, Invisible Disabilities Foundation, Marion Downs Hearing Center, Listen Foundation, Global Down Syndrome, Developmental Pathways, and more.

Lori has been making a mark and a name for herself as a speaker and ambassador for people with disabilities - which includes cancer.  Lori created an inspirational message by documenting her journey with a local video company and through stories that have aired on television and have also become headline features in several publications. She hopes they will become a source of hope to all who have experienced the challenges of living with and managing a disability.

On Lori Frisher’s bio, it states that she is: “Ready and Able.”  Now I understand what makes her that way!  She’s an impressive, strong woman who didn’t allow any of her limitations to stop her.  She sets a remarkable example for others facing hearing loss, cancer or any other serious ailment.
Lori with her high-energy, enthusiasm, and leadership skills is now working for XO Communications as their Enterprise Accounts Manager and is very excited about the future by continuing to share her passion and commitment through her business knowledge as well as her nonprofit involvement.      

If you’re looking for a woman of substance and phenomenal courage who will continue to make the most of her life and keep helping others achieve their dreams, Lori Frisher fits the bill!

What advantages do you think you had that other people with hearing disabilities might not have had?  Having a mother who is a teacher and was in the field of education, she went above and beyond to help me - and fought every step of the way - to make sure I got the care I needed.  My father owned an importing company and was athletic and played basketball and water polo.  This helped me get excited about athletics!  They both were very encouraging and helped ground me in believing in myself… It was all about making me feel part of everybody else.  I was raised to never feel different than any other child.

You had Melanoma Cancer Stage 3. What got you through that?   Have strides in cancer meds made Melanoma a curable cancer?   I believe it’s a “Mind over Matter” mentality.  It was with a lot of prayer; and my father would say: “Everyone is praying for you.” People I didn’t even know… It was just a strong love from family and friends.  The lack of awareness about skin cancer was considered one of the hardest fights… We didn’t realize how many people were dying of this deadly cancer.  Now people are going in for skin checks, and there is more awareness and better treatments like with medications such as Interferon.      

What does it take to be a “survivor” in this complex world?  Staying focused and keeping a positive attitude.  I have learned to be grateful for everything I have in my life, and that there is always someone that has had it harder than you.  Also staying around positive people and surrounding yourself with a lot of love and good friendships.  

If you personally could change one thing in the world, what would it be? Hatred.   It’s good to see parents these days working more with their kids on “people skills" - and "social skills."  So many kids are attached to their mobile devices, so working on these skills are good.  If you can instill self-confidence early in life, and show that even if you have your own challenges, you can still focus on the good you can do in society.

You have told your story of triumph so beautifully.  Is there something people still don’t know about you?   Let’s see… I don’t like black olives.  I’m extremely sensitive but competitive.  I’ve been wearing the same perfume since age 16:  “White Musk” from the Body Shop.

You have reached many milestones in your life, what do you still hope to accomplish?  I am so blessed for the milestones I’ve achieved in life.  If I can continue to have more milestones… I’m satisfied with what I’ve had, but my nature is I always look for more accomplishments, it’s part of my everyday conditioning - I try to make the most of every day.  Even though I’ve been successful, I don’t want that to stop me from being the driver to become even better.

If you could bring anyone back to life and have an hour conversation with them, who would it be?  I would love to have a conversation with Helen Keller and Anne Frank.  With what technology is out there now, how did Helen do what she did back then?  And – Anne not having a place to go out and play and have a normal life.

How did the term “invisible disabilities” develop?  What qualifies as an invisible disability?  For those not living with a physical disability and not battling with a condition, like autoimmune disease, arthritis, Bi-polar or depression… they might say “You don’t look like you have a disability or are in pain….”  I had a conductor on a train once say to me once he found out I was hearing impaired: “You’ve been paying full fare for this ride?”  Without an identifying card, what is someone with an invisible disability supposed to look like?  It’s hard, so don’t assume that someone doesn’t have a disability, since it’s not always recognizable.  It may not be immediately obvious.

You were on your way to work on the morning of 9-11 in downtown New York City.  Can you share with us some of what you experienced on that day?  We were the last subway allowed into the city that morning.  When we got off the train, we could see the first plane hit the building.  There was smoke everywhere, and we knew something awful had just happened.  People began running around in chaos, there was white powder all over my suit, police cars all over, and people began wearing face masks.  We walked from Wall Street to the upper east where people were trying to get out of the city.  I remember stopping at a Sports Authority store to buy some sneakers since I was wearing heels, and there were no sneakers left… They only had flip flops, and I ended up getting a pair of Adidas flip flops - and also bought some workout clothes and changed clothes right there in their dressing room.  It was a very difficult time, not knowing which way to walk… We didn’t know if something else was about to happen.  I went to meet my sister on the east side, and there was a poor pregnant woman passed out, so we knew there were others having a more difficult time.  It was just chaotic…  It was hard to see such terrible hatred first-hand.

Miraculously, everyone was there for each other… helping each other with that survivor mentality. There was total unity!  The entire city came together, and it was great to see New Yorkers as one.     

How important it is to give disabled people an opportunity to work and be part of the community?  It means everything… even if they are hired to fold napkins/linens, etc., for someone with a disability, they believe they were given a great opportunity. They feel like someone believes in them and wants to give them a chance to become a part of something and that they belong in the community.

We all have days where nothing comes together.  How do you stay motivated and get back on track?  I have been focusing on gratitude a lot… Always remind myself of the small things that have happened in my life, and that they really are big things. I consider all of it a gift… I was given another day! There are others worse off than me…  I’ve become more spiritual and believe that what you put out is what you get.  I am conditioning myself to believe in a lot of positive energy.  We have clean water, fresh food and a comfortable life here, and so many things to be grateful for.  This is how I stay motivated, and it gets me back on track.

What do you love most about living in Colorado?  I love the people, I love the fact that you can travel just an hour away and you are surrounded by beautiful mountains…  It’s God’s country.  What I used to just see in photos are really in front of me, blue skies, sunny most of the time… Everyone is so active here and keeping themselves busy. There’s a lot of energy here!  

What is a nonprofit event you look forward to attending each year? The Hope Ball for Cancer League of Colorado.

Which one word describes you best?  Discipline.  (It motivates me and helps keep me focused.)   

What surprises you about yourself?  How hard I continue to be on myself.

If you write an autobiography, what will the title be? “Silence has a Sound.”

What would you like your legacy to be? That I’ve really made a difference in all aspects of my life, from my friends, strangers, my family, my community - that I’ve touched a life.