Recently a practice member noticed the little blue sign above the lintel of the doorway between the entraining rooms. “Who is Ellie Hondorp?” they asked.

It is not often that someone notices the sign. Yet this small sign reveals the true reason I went into chiropractic, though at the time I did not realize it.

It was 1980, I was a dancer working for rent at the uptown NYC ice-cream parlor Serendipity. The dinner shift had barely begun and already the line was forming at the host station up front. I had spoken with mom earlier that day and she assured me that I should not miss work to come visit her in the hospital, “Just wait til I’m home”, she said.

Mom was 47 years old, when she collapsed onto the floor with back pain. She had had back pain for many years and would pull out the corset with metal slats cinching it tight around her mid section when the pain got bad. Mostly she ignored it as best she could. This time the pain grabbed her, knocked her off her feet and the ambulance swept her away to the hospital. Not to worry everyone said, “she just needs back surgery but don’t worry, it is routine, they do it all the time.”

It happened so fast, her decision to go ahead. There was no time to consider other possibilities. Surgery was the only option given, she had tried medication but it just made her ‘loopy’. Plus she was scared and in pain, besides she trusted the doctors.

I was serving frozen hot chocolates to a large group of customers when one of the waiters came up to me and said that my father was on the phone. He never called me at work. The busy loud room went suddenly silent and still as I heard my father trying to tell me what I already knew. I became numb all over, I wanted to cry, to feel something, but I inside I felt like a zombie.

The surgery had been successful but after many hours of working on her body, they lost her to a massive pulmonary embolism. She essentially had suffocated from the inside.

IT is strange how what you think is the worst thing that could happen sometimes really does. I had never considered what it would be like to lose my mother, it was not ever a thought or something I could even imagine.

18 years later when I opened my first chiropractic center in Saco, Maine, I had a sign made. “Remembering Ellie Hondorp”.  I hung it above my office door, facing my desk to remind me that her life and death had made me search for options, alternatives.

So whenever I hear the phrase “routine surgery”, or hear someone casually consider surgery, I feel my blood rise up, my fists curl and my jaw clench, and “I say strongly and passionately, “You must try Network first” and unsaid I continue, “IF only my mother had…”




Saying YES or How I Found Network.

Dr. Catherine in Maine
Dr. Catherine at her first chiropractic job. (notice the watercolor)

I remember when I first heard about Network. I was in Chiropractic school in a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri it was 1993.

The year before, I had decided to switch my career from being a modern dancer and adjunct university dance faculty scurrying around New York City, with catering on the side to help with the bills to something more dependable, less esoteric. I chose Chiropractic school over Alexander Technique. So off I went to Missouri, where I struggled through science pre-requisites and then enrolled into Logan Chiropractic school.

It was there in the midst of pathology, physiology, neurology classes that I heard about this thing called Network. Network Chiropractic as it was known at the time, was not taught at school and the club was not ‘officially approved’ by the student club authorities. It was hush hush. One whispered when the students who had been to a seminar or two with this Dr. Epstein, the founder of Network Chiropractic would meet. At their clandestine unofficial club meeting, they spoke as if Network were some kind of mystical new age spirituality. Honestly, when I received the Network adjustment from these club leaders, I did not feel anything. So I went on to other, more scientifically based (or so I thought at the time) techniques, Applied Kinesiology, Sacro-Occipital Technique and Chiropractic Neurology were at the top of my list. These were tried and proven techniques, even though I began to wonder when one of my professors had us moving magnetic dials just using our minds in one of my classes. I believe I actually saw a little movement!   Still throughout my schooling I remained curious about this Network thing though I resisted exploring it because it just sounded too weird.

In my 10th semester externship I went to Maine. I met a couple of friends there who said that, “You must meet my chiropractors, they are wonderful and do this thing called Network”. After 3 different people suggested the same thing, all in one week, I figured it was fate and I surrendered and called them up.

It was an autumn afternoon when I arrived at The Chiropractic Family Wellness Center to observe. I had been used to private rooms for patient visits both in the school clinic and with the two docs that I had interned with, like in a medical doctors office. Here at the Network office, it was a different scene. I walked into a large open room with 6 chiropractic tables, beautiful watercolor pictures on the walls, crystals in the windows, you get the idea. The friendly receptionist gave me a chair in the corner of the room and I watched as the two women chiropractors moved around the room lightly touching the people on the tables. Some people spontaneously moved, made sounds, cried, laughed, took deep breaths. I was fascinated and warmed by the gentleness, the respect, the expression on the faces of the people.  Adults, babies and elders were all welcome into the community space. It was beautiful, different and touched me deeply.

The rest is history. Since that fateful moment I dedicated my professional practice to this ‘weird’ and wonderful esoteric approach. As it turned out before I left the Network office that autumn day in 1995, I was offered my first chiropractic job. They said they liked my energy. Surprised and without hesitation, I said “YES” to their offer.

I will always be grateful for their welcome, open -hearted trust, friendship and guidance. Thank you Drs. Meg Pickering and Caroll Coyle for opening the gateway to this exciting profound world of Network.