A life long battle with chronic illness and disability
Our story begins when I was just four years old and suffering with severe knee pain
For 15 years I was misdiagnosed or wrongly treated. I was told it was just growing pains and that it would pass. I was told to take paracetamol and ibuprofen when it hurt, and by the age of 15 I was taking these painkillers every four hours, day and night. I hardly ever slept due to the pain, and I was often unable to stay around friends’ houses, or go out for long periods of time because I would end up in tears. It felt like both my legs had been broken.
My wonderful mum and dad would often wake up to hear me crying and end up sitting on my bed for hours on end trying to comfort and console me, knowing that the doctors were doing nothing to help me, they would end up taking me to A&E to try and get me help at all hours of the morning and just generally fighting for me in any way they could.
It was only when I went for a small, unrelated, operation aged 19 that a kind nurse told me that as I had juvenile arthritis on my hospital notes, I should have it re-evaluated as I was an adult. My jaw dropped to the floor. Suddenly, the pain, the agonising nights, the missed chances to socialise, it all had a name and a reason. It was such a relief.
So immediately I made an appointment to see my GP and the wheels were finally set in motion for my diagnosis. I saw a rheumatologist and I got my final results – I had the knees of a 90-year-old woman aged 19. And I had rheumatoid arthritis.
I used to sit and cry with my mum in the waiting room for my rheumatology appointments as I looked around at all the older people there. I was the only person under 60 at those appointments. I knew no one else that was suffering that could relate to me being a young person with such a horrible disease. After many different medications and treatments, I was finally given a long-term drug that took the edge off of my pain and meant I could continue to work and go out and socialise like a normal 21-year-old!
However, this wasn’t the end of our story
As my joints became affected, I developed severe anxiety about leaving the house. I was so anxious in case the pain increased to unmanageable levels and I was unable to get home, or if I became upset or fell or something while I was out. I became isolated and depressed and lost all my closest friends. I was also diagnosed with fibromyalgia during this time which added more complications and meant that I was no longer able to work in my teaching job because my good days and bad days were too unpredictable. I was crushed.
Finally, with a push from my wonderful fiancé, my family and a small group of loving friends, I began to be treated for my anxiety and depression and got my life back on track. I’ve always tried my best to hold down a job regardless of these difficulties and I have always managed to up till now. At the moment I have been out of work since September 2016 and I am waiting to find a treatment for my fibromyalgia to get my life back to normal. I try my best to stay positive and keep focusing on my new job – making people’s gorgeous animals!
To find solace in crafting and crocheting is an amazing distraction and outlet for all my troubles. It’s turning something so negative into something positive.
I began making up some pets that looked like our animals for fun. I shared them with my Conscious Crafties buddies online and people wanted one of their own. Then we realised we could make them for anyone! So I offered my CC pals a discount to make their pets and use the photos for a portfolio. The feedback and reviews I got for them were fantastic, so Riccardo started advertising them on Facebook and we got more an more requests! Companies such as ‘D for Dog’ and ‘Chelsea Dogs’ wanted to stock our toys – and then the big one happened. I applied to sell on NotOnTheHighStreet.com and they accepted my application!
Our story begins!!! This is when we realised we had a viable business. It got busier and busier, the press became involved and wrote articles on us, charities asked us to do fundraisers and make special exclusive products for them to raise money, and I realised that I was going to need more help from Riccardo than all his amazing promotion – he was going to have to learn how to crochet!
He learned, pretty quickly, actually, and after some flying balls of wool, a fair amount of sighing, shouting and loads of laughing, plus a lot of late nights and knotted masses of yarn, we both know how to crochet and create the pet plush crochet toys together.
So now Riccardo cares for me and we run our business together. And we love it.
Take a look for yourselves and visit our Gallery page.
Thank you for reading our story and looking at our crafts.
We wish you all the health and happiness in the world.
From your crazy pet lovers,
Laura and Riccardo.