"The Dr. Phil show isn't just about what happens on the stage. There's a lot more to it than that," says Nicole von Ruden, who has been a segment director at Dr. Phil for four years. She points to her computer monitor and
explains that she is writing a script for the videotape segments that are seen during the show. "This is an edit bay," she says, pointing to a room where an editor is using a computer with multiple monitors. "It's where you finesse the piece or the content of the story."
"All the things that tell the story, she makes that happen," explains Dr. Phil. "Without her, you'd just be looking at me."
"You really have to be a good storyteller, and I have never, in my career, met a better storyteller than Nicole," says Carla Pennington, Executive Producer of Dr. Phil. "This is a very demanding job, and so for Nicole to do it as well as she does given her circumstances, speaks volumes to the type of person she is."
In January 2000, Nicole was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.
"Last spring, when my mobility got to the point where I couldn't do my job accurately " as far as walking around, running around, going into the edit bays, going over to the stage " I was given a wonderful gift from Dr. Phil and the show: an electric scooter. It was an absolute Godsend. I felt very blessed that I was able to continue my job and still zip around," Nicole shares. "Most people, when you're diagnosed with a brain tumor and/or cancer, your idea is not to want to get up, and come to work every day, and work long hours and work hard, but I have to say that getting up and working keeps the brain alive, keeps me intellectually going, and the people here give you a reason to wake up."
Nicole recently turned 40 years old. "This was such a milestone for her," Carla reveals. "Doctors had told her that she might not see her 40th, and she danced probably more than anybody else there. It was so great to see her. I've never seen her so happy ... She appreciates every moment that she has in this world, and she makes you look at life a little differently."
"She's about living in the moment, and every moment that she lives, she just kind of lights up the room. She is lightning in a bottle," Dr. Phil gushes. "You've got to have a turbo scooter to keep up with her. She is so active and so involved, we just thought it was time to do a little upgrade. It was time to come with a little more power, a little more speed, a little more fun, to help her keep doing what she does so special."
In his studio, Dr. Phil surprises Nicole. "We're so proud of her," Dr. Phil says. "Nicole thinks that she might be getting a new paint job. Well, how about a whole brand-new scooter!" The show contacted Zip'r Mobility Solutions, and they are giving her their newest model, the Zip'r Xtra. "We also contacted Galpin Auto Sports, who do Pimp My Ride,
and Mad Mike and his crew have been working around the clock on Nicole's new ride."
As Mad Mike walks onstage with the new scooter, Nicole, who is joined by her parents, June and Dale Von Ruden, grins from ear to ear.
Mike describes how they pimped her new ride. "We put custo
m pin stripping on it. We put spinners on it," he says. It is outfitted with lights, leather upholstery, a massager in the seat and a top-of-the-line GPS system which includes XM satellite radio, mp3 player and pictures.
"This also has a backup camera, right?" Dr. Phil asks. With a facetious smile, he says, "We need that because she runs into everything!"
Dr. Phil has another surprise for Nicole. "We know she loves to ski, and she loves Utah," he says. "We also wanted to send Nicole and her family to Park City, Utah for a ski vacation." Park City Mountain Resort and the National Ability Center have teamed up to provide lift tickets and skiing lessons for Nicole and her family, as well as lodging, and Southwest Airlines is flying them to Utah. Nicole will also be treated to a day of pampering at the Stein Eriksen Spa.
"Nicole, we love you. We're so proud," Dr. Phil tells her.
Update: Unfortunately, Nicole lost her battle with cancer on August 7, 2008. Her bright smile and warm personality will be missed by all who knew her. She was a very important member of the Dr. Phil staff, and her contributions were integral to the success of the show. Her gracious spirit will live on forever.
So much remains to be learned about brain tumors, and an endowment fund has been set up at the UCSF Brain Tumor Research Center in Nicole's name. To donate in her honor, please click on the following link and make sure to include Nicole's name in your donation: