As part of National Pain Awareness Month, PainPathways wants to honor some special individuals who have helped so many while suffering with chronic pain themselves. Nancy Laracy is one of those inspiring people. Here’s her story:
Laracy: Halfway through my thirties, the rug was ripped out from under me. After two years of living with a myriad of disabling symptoms, the doctors finally figured out that I had an acute case of Parvo-virus B-19, otherwise known as Fifth’s Disease. I was sent home from an intensive care unit with a bag full of medications to treat the symptoms but not the underlying virus.
PP: What did you do?
Laracy: I learned that European doctors were having some success in treating Parvo-virus B-19 with Intravenous Gamma globulin. So I called the Center for Disease Control and they found me a cutting-edge rheumatologist who prescribed the life-saving treatment.
PP: Did the treatment work?
Laracy: After six monthly intravenous infusions, the virus stopped replicating in my DNA and some of the symptoms subsided, but I was left with a connective tissue disease and fibromyalgia. At times it felt like a thousand knives were piercing my body.
PP: How did you deal with that pain?
Laracy: Initially, I tried every mainstream and holistic treatment for pain. When a psychologist said “You may never be your old self,” it angered me and made me more determined to control my pain and not let it control me.
When the sad reality set in, my plan to have a large family became a lost dream. While I had been blessed with two beautiful children, it was still a sad time for me. My husband was allergic to dogs and cats, so I bought a bunny – a gorgeous Red Satin, little ball of fur. He was a gift from God that ended up saving my life figuratively and literally. When I held that tiny bunny in my arms, something in me just gave. It was as if I could sense all that we would come to mean to each other.
PP: What happened to the bunny?
Laracy: At nine months old, Bunnyboy developed a jaw abscess and the prognosis was bleak. He was also diagnosed as immunocompromised, much like me and we were told he would not live more than a few months. Bunnyboy survived surgery and went on to thrive and become a valued and loved member of our family. He died peacefully in my arms at the age of nine and suffered more indignities than any rabbit should have to, but his joie de vivre taught anyone who crossed his bunny trail a thing or two about how to live life to its fullest.
PP: How did you start pet therapy?
Laracy: I wanted to share my connection with bunnies with others. My new bunny, Muffin, an adorable Jersey Woolie, is an active, certified therapy bunny (the first New Jersey member of Bunnies in Baskets) who brings love and comfort to many. On some of my worst days, the hours spent bringing comfort to others completely distracts me from my pain, if only for a short while.
Laracy: Besides Muffin’s regular weekly therapy assignments to several local rehabilitation/long term care facilities, Muffin has also been up to comfort the children at the Children’s Adventure Center in Sandy Hook, Newtown. Bringing with her a car full of goodies. The Center is a preschool that shares the same driveway with Sandy Hook Elementary and the director lost seven of her precious children on that dreadful day in December of 2012. She also suffers with fibromyalgia and can be an inspiration to us all on how to fight through adversity and trauma.
Muffin and I also visit a school for special needs children and we will begin home hospice visits to children with cancer. This summer, we visited Camp Dream Street, a camp for inner-city children with cancer or blood diseases.
PP: How does helping others affect your pain?
Laracy: So in the end, animal therapy made the biggest difference in my pain level. Around every corner there seems to be another opportunity for Muffin and I to bring comfort to those suffering.
Laracy: For those of us suffering with chronic pain, having a pet can sound like a lot of extra work. But we are actually on the receiving end of pet therapy when we have to take care of and play with them. Pets also teach us about the importance of love and affection: that unconditional love really can heal, where medical science fails, and prolongs and improved the quality of our lives.