I want to introduce you to Nancy Laracy. I met Nancy while attending the National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association Advocate training this past October. I am proud to be working with her in the Leaders Against Pain and to call her my friend.
Nancy is currently a writer and national advocate for the chronic pain and pet therapy community. She was a human resources executive before she became ill in 1996. Nancy lives in Franklin Lakes New Jersey with her husband and has two grown children. She has written for or been the subject of more than a dozen magazine publications such as Arthritis Today and Pain Pathways, with regard to living with chronic pain. Nancy is a member of Leaders Against Pain, a branch of the National Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Association. She has designed and developed her own comprehensive website dedicated to chronic pain and pet therapy (www.nancylaracy.com) where she is in touch with thousands of individuals worldwide who suffer in chronic pain. She has a blog and also a Facebook page, which keeps current, her endeavors related to chronic pain and bunny therapy.
Nancy pioneered the first NJ branch of Bunnies in Baskets, a national 5013c charity, and sits on their board of directors. Her new rabbit Muffin and she are a very active therapy team, visiting the elderly and working with children who have cancer and other disabilities.( She plans large events for children through organizations such as Cancer Care and has also has done extensive work with the children of Sandy Hook, Newtown CT, who still suffer from the devastating affects of the events of December 14, 2012.)
Nancy has written a memoir about her amazing story as to how she triumphed over chronic pain with the help of her miracle rabbit, Bunnyboy. She is currently seeking a publisher while researching the options of self-publishing.
GUEST BLOG ~ Nancy Laracy
Imagine being a successful human resources executive, homemaker and mother of two beautiful toddlers—hurtling through life, when a virus strikes. Suddenly you find yourself living with the chronic, unrelenting pain of Fibromyalgia as well as a connective tissue disease. Your life as you knew it had changed forever—seemingly overnight.
What does it feel like when you finally hear the words “You have Fibromyalgia.”?
While for some people, a diagnosis of fibromyalgia comes quickly, for most people; the diagnosis is often made after a long journey of three or more years to all types of doctors. The finality of hearing you have fibromyalgia may be frightening, confusing and overwhelming all at the same time. But the good news is, today there are many different treatment options available for treating fibromyalgia and other chronic pain syndromes. The prognosis is; of course, better if your diagnosis is made sooner than later.
Probably the most important first step in ensuring the success of your treatment plan is to find a qualified, empathetic doctor who recognizes fibromyalgia and is willing to treat all the symptoms that accompany the disease. Many individuals not only experience the chronic fatigue and unrelenting, often debilitating, widespread body pain which are the hallmarks of fibromyalgia, but they may also be coping with a myriad of other symptoms that include headaches, cognitive impairment referred to as “fibrofog”, irritable bowel, depression and sleep disturbances. It is also very important to understand that you will probably need a combination of therapies to help lessen your symptoms and initially it may feel like trial and error, so be patient. And please understand that what works for one fibromyalgia patient may not work for another.
From a pharmaceutical standpoint there are many different treatment options, all of which seem to provide some relief for some and not others. Many individuals have partial success taking Lyrica or Neurontin (central nervous systems medications) for their fibromyalgia and other individuals seem to get relief from the SSRI’s like Prozac, Sevella and Zoloft and Cymbalta. Quite often patients will also benefit from medications that increase restorative sleep like Ambien and Restoril or over the counter sleep aids.
The newest medication on the horizon that that shows great promise is a drug called Naltrexone. Naltrexone is an opiate antagonist better known for its use in assisting individuals to come off of their opiates, but recent compelling research done at Stanford University shows that in extremely small doses, Naltrexone offers great pain relief for fibromyalgia and other chronic pain patients. Low dose Naltrexone works in a completely different manner in the brain than previous medications. If you go to the news page of my very comprehensive chronic pain website www.nancylaracy.com, you can see the results of the recent study done at Stanford University on Naltrexone.
While visiting my website, you will also find loads of information on the holistic and alternative treatments effective in relieving some of the pain of fibromyalgia, accompanied by links to studies showing the efficacy of those treatments. These therapies include chiropractic care; massage therapy, acupuncture, water therapy, vitamin therapy, mind and bodywork therapies such as yoga, tai chi, biofeedback, and also diet changes. Quite often patients experience significant relief of muscle soreness, irritable bowel and fibrofog when they limit their intake of gluten, (which causes inflammation), and sugar and carbohydrates, which cause yeast overgrowth. Yeast overgrowth can translates into muscle achiness. Artificial sweeteners and MSG should also be limited in our diet. They are both excitotoxins, which are known to increase the amount of nerve impulses sent from the brain, and we already know that fibromyalgia patients experience heightened nerve sensitivity so it makes sense that having something in our diet, which increases those excitotoxins that our brain already produces, doesn’t make sense.
Last but not least, I would like to mention the therapeutic benefits of AAT, animal assisted therapy. A formal study involving animal assisted therapy and its benefits for fibromyalgia is also linked to my website on the news page, but here is my personal experience which I think will delight and hopefully inspire you all.
By a stroke of fate or perhaps luck, after trying just about every mainstream and holistic treatment available—refusing to give up in my search for pain relief, I stumbled accidentally on the most effective treatment for my pain: my 9-pound, soft, cuddly Red Satin Rabbit. In the middle of a blizzard I bought the world’s luckiest but unluckiest bunny. Unlucky because he was born with an immune disease similar to mine. Lucky because we found each other.
Because my husband was allergic to cats and dogs, our Australian bearded dragon named Sunny failed to meet the full criteria for a family pet. We all needed something warm an fuzzy like a rabbit. If only I had known all that my snow bunny and I would come to mean to each other.
At only nine months old Bunnyboy developed a severe jaw abscess. We were told that he wouldn’t survive more than a few months. Well that wasn’t good enough. I went into the same fighter mode for Bunnyboy that I had used for my own illnesses. Bunnyboy underwent surgery, despite the fact that rabbits are prey animals designed by nature to be frail, and therefore they can succumb quickly to anesthesia and pain. Bunnyboy thrived after the surgery and continued to become a cherished member of our family, binkying around the house with a zest for life that I both admired and fed off of. (Binkying is a rabbits unique, adorable way of frolicking to say “I’m so happy!!) Bunnyboy became the mascot for my children’s sports teams and the live exhibit for more than one science fair. He traveled in the car everywhere with me and filled the void that I felt over not being able to have more children. He became my third child.
When Bunnyboy’s abscess returned a few years later, Dr. Cheryl Welch, his veterinarian told us about a new, seemingly more effective treatment for these highly resistant abscesses that was being used experimentally at the world famous Animal Medical Center in New York. So of course, I rushed Bunnyboy right into NY and he underwent surgery where the physician implanted absorbable antibiotic beads into the site of the infection after removing the abscess. The beads would release slowly over three months to combat the infection long term. Sadly the infection had already settled into Bunnyboy’s hocks, but with proper cleaning and bandage changes as well as daily penicillin injections that became a family act of love, our resilient bunny recovered from those infections as well. But while Bunnyboy struggled to hop around the house—bandages and all, something wonderful happened. His fierce determination helped me not to feel so broken and taught me that it was ok not to be able to do everything I used to.
Several years after Bunnyboy’s miraculous surgery and recovery, I developed a bone infection in my jaw. I was on Enbrel, an immunosuppressant that posed a great risk for me with regards to even the smallest infection, let alone a serious bone infection. Amazing, the surgery to clean out the infection also involved the use of similar antibiotic beads that had been used on Bunnyboy. The beads had just recently been approved for the use in oral surgery for humans. Without the absorbable antibiotic beads, my outcome could have been very different. So you see, Bunnyboy helped save my life literally and figuratively. He became MY AVENUE to overcome pain. I was so busy caring for his many ails that I had little time to focus on my own.
For those of us suffering with chronic pain, getting a pet may sound like a lot of extra work and energy that we just don’t have to give anymore. But what Bunnyboy taught me was that the extra work of caring for a pet is not a chore: you are actually on the receiving end of pet therapy. Pets make us walk to let them out or take them for a walk, or in my case to chase them around the house like a Nascar driver. They make us stretch to clean their litter pan, brush their silky fur, or snuggle. They stand at our feet and wiggle their little noses or binky across the carpet looking to play, which requires exercise on our part. What better therapy for fibromyalgia? Pets also teach us about the importance of love and affection: that unconditional love really does heal, where medical science fails, and prolongs and improved the quality of our lives.
When I realized how happy Bunnyboy made my family, and me I knew he could have the same effect on others. So he became a formal therapy animal for a short time before he died at nine years old peacefully in my arms of nothing more than old age.
Please don’t forget to visit my website at www.nancylaracy.com.
Be on the lookout for my memoir called “Bunnyboy, One Woman’s Triumph Over Chronic Pain Through the World’s Luckiest, Unluckiest Rabbit.”