A classic closet smoker, Vince Palmer never smoked in front of his family or his colleagues and was convinced he would never be able to give up the 2 1/2 packs a day he craved.
But he did.
He entered a monthlong, quit-smoking program that, for $250, included acupuncture, herbs and supplements.
"It was a very methodical, very regimented process that eliminated cigarettes from my life," said Palmer, 50, of Seminole.
The program that cured him at A Therapy Above in Largo is supervised and administered by the business' owner and founder, Sigal Dory, a 42-year-old mother of four.
A former smoker herself, she said, "I figured out how to make quitting smoking work."
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A Therapy Above is the product of Dory's determination to take action on another challenge in her life, her son, Raam, now 11.
When he was 2 and had been in and out of hospitals with asthma and other problems, she decided to go back to school to study pediatric medicine.
The direction of her studies changed the day she was looking in the Yellow Pages for the phone and address of a bay area university.
Following a whim, she closed her eyes and pointed a finger, letting it land on one of the pages. It was a moment that changed her life.
When she opened her eyes, her finger was pointing to the Florida Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
"I really didn't know what it was," Dory recalled. "I called the school and said, 'What exactly do you do? How is it different from Western medicine?' "
Armed with the answers, Dory took Raam to the school's clinic for a Chinese pediatric medical massage. Within a week, he showed improvement. She decided to sit in on some of the school's classes and soon was enrolled.
She completed a five-year course of study in three years, earning degrees in 2004 as a doctor of general and pediatric Chinese medicine and acupuncture.
After practicing a year in Indian Rocks Beach, Dory bought property and the 4,000-square-foot building at 1590 Seminole Blvd. in Largo, and opened A Therapy Above natural medicine center.
She has a staff of 14 with room to bring in more services.
Treatments include Chinese medicine, medical thermal imaging, diagnostic testing, detoxification, natural rejuvenation, massage therapy, as well as classes in several yoga styles, Pilates and dancing and an ever-growing natural pharmacy that includes a full line of traditional Chinese herbal formulas, raw herbs, medicinal teas, homeopathic medicines, Thorne vitamin line, oils and patches for pain.
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Dory is a native of Nahariya, Israel.
She came to the United States as a teenager with her parents and younger brother in 1980 when her father opened a natural energy company in Oregon. The family later moved to Florida and now lives in Indian Rocks Beach.
After graduating high school, Dory attended Florida Southern College in Lakeland, where she earned degrees in psychology, sociology and business.
Before embarking on her career in Chinese medicine, she had a business selling refurbished telecommunications equipment and refurbished restaurant equipment.
She's glad she made the career change.
"When I first started, I thought I could fix anything," she said. "Now I feel everyone can be helped. But you can't expect everything to go right immediately. It has to be progressive. It takes time."
Her philosophy is that "individuals have to take charge of their own health and the responsibility for the health of their children."
"Doing what you are told, and not educating yourself in basic issues in medicine so you can help make decisions, is wrong," she said. "If you have to make a health decision, take the time to get opinions and never do things out of convenience."
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Vince Palmer smoked for 12 years before kicking habit.
"I started smoking cigars with a friend when I was 38," he said. "When my friend moved away, I found another vice, cigarettes.
"I knew smoking was very bad for my health. I was a chief information officer for a local corporation and didn't want my family and peers to know. But I'd come home and my wife would say, 'You stink.' I tried a couple of times to quit, but I was addicted to nicotine."
After retiring at the end of 2007, he jumped from a pack a day to 2 1/2 packs a day.
"My habit owned my life," he said. "I thought I was going to die with a cigarette in my hand."
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Two local women have become regular patients at A Therapy Above after deciding to try a different type of mammogram.
"I felt I needed a mammogram but I didn't have health insurance," said Kristen Lassiter, 39, a marketing director with four children. "Thermal imaging is known to detect problems before other scans and it was inexpensive ($125)."
The Seminole resident is undergoing other treatments, she said, because she has health issues that she has been ignoring. She has had acupuncture, she said, "and was impressed with the way it helped me feel."
She will continue to be a patient of Dory, she said, because "I know when I'm talking to her she's really listening to me and that means everything to me. It's just a different mentality —to work with someone with the knowledge and expertise to care about me getting better."
After her breast thermography, Linda Prang of St. Petersburg followed up with treatments for pain in her neck, shoulders and back from scoliosis. As a result, she said, "my posture feels so much better."
Prang, 57, a treatment coordinator for a Largo orthodontist, said she likes the center's relaxing atmosphere.
"When you walk in the door," she said, "you feel like you're in an oasis, a retreat."
Chris Cosdon can be reached at email@example.com.