Lori Ames: President, The PR Freelancer, Inc.

1 Posted by - November 9, 2011 - Fortune 52

Last October just as Lori Ames, her husband and her only child, Robert, 22, were leaving on a much-needed vacation, Robert said he wasn’t feeling well. Thinking Robert might have a virus, she called his father to pick him up and Lori and her husband continued on their trip to Las Vegas. When she landed, she learned that Robert had been admitted to Winthrop University Hospital and before Lori had time to sort out what to do next, her sister, a nurse, called to tell her that the doctors had found a brain tumor. By the time Lori landed back in New York, Robert had already undergone two brain surgeries.

Utterly devastated, Lori went to her son’s side, and they have been inseparable ever since. Only a few weeks prior, she had taken Robert to another hospital where Lori was told he had a migraine headache and he was sent home.

“He might have had the tumor for 10 years,” she says. “No one had ever connected his symptoms before.”

Only a week after his emergency surgery, Robert had to undergo two more operations. In the first one, Lori explained that the doctor literally unfolded his brain, performed a biopsy and refolded it. The diagnosis was that his tumor was inoperable so another surgery was scheduled to put in a shunt to drain the fluid accumulating in his skull into his abdomen.

Lori was the vice president of a New York City public relations agency and had been with them for more than 20 years. While trying to take care of her son, Lori’s employer was regularly asking her when she would be able to return to work. For Lori, however, leaving her son was not an option.

Robert was very aware that his mother was a successful businesswoman who worked hard to attain her position at the agency, and he was extremely upset that she was not working. Lori says that Robert suggested she open her own public relations business. Lori had vast experience in PR and marketing, specializing in book authors and small businesses. “He told me if I started my own, he would stop worrying,” Lori says. She knew that Robert still had a long road ahead of him involving more surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and physical therapy, so the idea of going out on her own was taking root.

At the end of November, while Robert was recuperating from surgery and getting ready to start chemotherapy, Lori knew she could not go back to her job and officially resigned.

“I was thinking about how I was going to run my business,” Lori recalls. “Robert and I talked about it, too. We both decided that you just can’t worry about being sick.”

Many people report feeling isolated, lonely and desperate as they endure brain tumor diagnosis, treatments and rehabilitation, but this mother and son team worked their way through it. In a way, Lori had to reprogram her own brain and how she thought about everything in her life.

“I’m either a genius or I’m insane,” Lori says with a smile. Not one to waste time, she immediately registered her URL and had her first client by mid-December.

At first Lori worked from home to accommodate Robert’s recuperation and rehabilitation schedule.

“Everything grew from that,” Lori says. She rebuilt many of her connections from Linked-In but believes another reason for her success is very simple. “I have been nice to every person I have spoken to for the past 25 years,” she says.

Her business took off but that brought a new set of challenges. “I know how to make money and run a business,” Lori says, “but working at home was impossible. I was out growing my house and needed to find office space.”

She found a great location less than half a mile from her house, and now Robert is doing so well, he accompanies Lori to work everyday. Their set-up, which includes Lori’s intern Christina, is professional yet homey. Robert is a charming and very funny young man, he is his mother’s alter ego, her muse, her foil. Robert has to come to terms with his post-surgery identity, just like his mother had to. Although Lori is no longer the VP of a New York City PR firm; she is the president and owner of her own thriving Long Island agency. Robert is amazingly candid about what he’s endured and even has a sassy rejoinder to anyone who might be impatient if he takes a little longer to finish a thought: “I had brain surgery. Can you give me a minute?” The line is delivered with perfect timing, like a professional comedian. Robert launched into a comedy skit about Lori’s lack of culinary skills and ad libs: Boy Survives Brain Tumor: Killed By Mom’s Cooking. Everyone laughs.

There are no apologies from either mother or son for their office arrangement and their schedule, which includes working on the weekends to keep a routine, but Lori doesn’t mind in the least. Attitude is everything. “I needed to be strong for Robert,” Lori says.

Recently Robert’s doctor’s gave him the go-ahead to start fishing again. Lori and Robert have taken a weekly fishing trip on a party boat out of Captree since he was 4 years old. “Fishing has always been our passion. It was the one thing Robert always asked about when he was sick,” she says.

For both Lori and Robert, life today is precious and full of hope. “There are two things that happen,” she says. “A: you worry they’re not going to make it; B: you wonder if you should have found it [the tumor] earlier.”

“I learned that you can’t do that and lead any vibrant kind of life,” Lori says. “We try to laugh a lot because, believe me, there were plenty of tears.”

To contact Lori, go to ThePRFreelancer.com, Facebook: The PRFreelancer, email: lori@theprfreelancer.com, or call 631-539-4558.

12 Comments

  • Susan C. Forsythe November 9, 2011 - 8:38 pm Reply

    I’m one of the many people who have had the privilege of crossing paths with Lori. Lori is truly a woman of substance and one heck of a dynamo!

  • Judy Martin November 9, 2011 - 10:28 pm Reply

    You really captured who Lori is both personally and professionally. Great story with details that I was unaware of. She is a jewel in a rough industry. Her reputation speaks for itself. She’s a great asset to my work.

  • Carol November 10, 2011 - 8:56 am Reply

    Thank you for sharing this story with your readers. Lori and Robert are gems and I am grateful to be able to call them friends. I’m just waiting for Lori to write her book, since her wit and ability to laugh at herself would make it a bestseller!

  • Jack Rochester November 11, 2011 - 11:11 am Reply

    I’m touched deep in my heart. Losing a child is the scariest thing for any parent. David was my first brother, and was diagnosed as an infant with leukemia [in the late 1940s an incurable blood cancer]. My parents struggled for a year and a half to save David, to no avail. Lori, you are blessed to still have your son alive, and to have discovered a new depth and meaning in your relationship together.

  • 141JohnST November 11, 2011 - 4:48 pm Reply

    Lori and Rob are amazing human beings. They are a joy to have in our community of entrepreneurs. We wish Rob a continued speedy recovery. On another note, the writer of this article captured the essence of their spirits and commitment to one another, their business…
    Thank you, John Fusco

  • Keith Korman November 16, 2011 - 9:55 am Reply

    I also crossed paths with Lori in the book business, and I’ve never seen a better PR advocate.

  • boydlemon November 16, 2011 - 11:54 am Reply

    What an inspiring story, Lori. My best to you and your family.

    Boyd Lemon-Author of “Digging Deep: A Writer Uncovers His Marriages,” a memoir of the author’s journey to understand his role in the destruction of his three marriages, helpful for anyone to deal with issues in their own relationships. Information, excerpts and reviews: http://www.BoydLemon-Writer.com.

  • publishersplace November 16, 2011 - 11:56 am Reply

    Lori – Great story.
    Let us know your rates for promoting single books. See esp. WITNESS AT HAWKS NEST, which has its own website.
    All thanks.
    Patrick Grace – publisher

  • Laurinda Handlik November 16, 2011 - 1:07 pm Reply

    What a great and inspiring story – I wish you and your son a world of success and happiness always. Blessing to you both!

  • jess pryce-jones November 20, 2011 - 12:12 pm Reply

    Lori represented me when my book ‘Happiness at work’ came out. I loved working with her and she did a terrific job. As someone who flips between being a moron and a genius too (with decidely more of the former than the latter) I am with you on the work front. But on the home front you are an inspiration for all of us. Wishing you every success and 100% health in this Thanksgiving week.

    Jess

  • Cheryl Echevarria March 15, 2012 - 1:15 pm Reply

    Lori is awesome, I am one of the honorees with Lori Ames, and we finally met this past week at the Fortune 52 Event. What a Gem of a person!! Someone who I can honestly call a friend.

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