Of Seagulls, Sand, & Sequels

“Your whole body, from wingtip to wingtip,” Jonathan would say, other times, “is nothing more than your thought itself, in a form you can see. Break the chains of your thought, and you break the chains of your body, too.” Richard David Bach, (American Writer), Jonathan Livingston Seagull.Of Seagulls

We have left the harsh cold of snow-land, the world of white and winter, and have arrived in Florida, eager to listen to the music of the wave-washed coast. We are ready to bask in the warm sunshine, and it is here that I have found the sanctuary I need to write “the sequel” to, Better With A Bag Than In A Bag.

That narrative is a book I did not originally set out to write. Just a little more than a year before I published it, I had arrived at death’s door after a 4 year struggle with illness and suffering. I survived against all odds, it was an amazing triumph of the surgical medical team, home care workers, my caregiver/life partner Mark, my body, and my human spirit. I fully embrace the full and glorious extent of this, and I am in awe.

During that year I was engaged on the battlefields of body recovery. My goal was to transform myself through a spectacular recovery. As I am a writer, one of the ways of clearing my thoughts and laundering my emotions is to write. And so, during that year, on a daily basis, I would write a word, a sentence, or paragraph on how I was feeling, what had happened, what I was experiencing, and where I thought I was.

I felt my light needed to sparkle and shine once again. I had high hopes. I knew I was recovering but didn’t know how much recovery would actually occur. Is there a limit; or is it limitless?

Better With A Bag Than In A Bag, chronicles the journey of me, an ordinary person, who had to endure a devastating illness, emergency lifesaving surgery, the creation of Percy (stoma), and the year long recovery that brought me to my 1st ostomaversary. On that day, we enjoyed a celebration of life, filled with friends, good eats, and all the sparkle July 21, 2012, could bring.

On the next day, I sat down and read all of the musings, rants, and laughs I had experienced and jotted down in the darkest and lightest of moments during that year. When I had finished reading, I realized that in spite of myself, I had written a book that would become, Better With A Bag Than In A Bag, From the brink of death to recovery through humour and inspiration. And, it was also the day that the full impact of reality set in, and I realized that although the official recovery process was now completed, the lingering carnage from the original disease, the damage from the extensive surgery, and the emotional toll it takes to adapt and live with an altered body function, was just beginning.

Percy, my life sustaining stoma and I are at the beginning of our, “beginning again”. Hmm…well ah, beginning of what, why, when, where and the how of a new life, new self, a new normal, whatever the heck that’s supposed to be, at any rate.

My journey is not complete. No journey I suppose ever is. So, marching to the beat of the recovery drum that sets the pace, I am now writing “the sequel”, which will be published later this year. It will be a book in which, together, we will explore the fact that regardless of your life altering occurrence, the truth and authenticity of whatever has struck you like a bolt of lightning cannot be erased. And, one of the key’s to success is to know and believe the grief you feel is not a place where you stand stuck. It is a process, a challenging and remarkable journey.

The sequel is about not being bound by physical or social challenges. We all have the ability to get on with life with the cards we have been dealt through strength and determination. Percy (Stoma) is co-writing the book with me. Well, what can I say? That little stoma has an opinion on everything, and we know Percy likes to toot his own horn.

Of seagulls, sand, and sequels in life, we observe from the edge of the waves, a vast ocean of life and possibilities. As Richard Back says in his story – Jonathan Livingston Seagull, “Break the chains of your thought, and you break the chains of your body, too.”

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay


Everyone you meet has a story to tell.”Seagull & Sand


Wishing everyone the best of the season, Merry Christmas, and may you have a healthy, happy and prosperous 2015!PointsettiaPhotographer: Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

Food For Thought and The Tastebuds

A recipe for success and gastronomic delights.Berry Bush Christmas

The personal and professional issues we deal with in life are universal to everyone, and at the same time, they are experienced uniquely by each person. No matter your struggles, everyone is individually co-creating themselves and their particular life experience. Along with everyone on this planet, you are pursuing goals and meeting challenges in order to achieve health, happiness and prosperity.

In addition to our universal issues, ostomates have their particular challenges to contend with on a daily basis. Our ostomies are a mixed blessing. On one hand they are the medical miracles that give us a second chance at life, promoting wellness, energy, and the opportunity to live life to the fullest, come what may. An ostomy is also a constant reminder of the illness we experienced, and the damage it caused.

Having said this, acceptance of the changes and transition we ostomates experience is fuelled by our attitude.  A positive attitude truly helps us transform and settle into our new normal. We know of course this is more easily said than done, but the effort is well worth it, it really does pay off in the long run.

A positive attitude is your success attitude. A success attitude is the drive to empower every act with the intent for fixing anything that is bungling up the hard work you’re doing. A person’s attitude is a great factor in gaining the confidence of others, and for obtaining desired results. Your attitude will always play an important part in how easy or difficult an experience will be. Your ally throughout your whole life in good times and bad, will be your attitude.

Very often people come up with creative excuses, and these excuses can present major obstacles to success. The best strategy for dealing with excuses is by eliminating them as much as possible. This is a challenge in itself as excuses are seductive. The bonus for eliminating excuses will cause you to be more open to learning from an experience and this will fuel your success attitude.

There really is no simple recipe for success, but there is one essential ingredient: A Success Attitude.

Success Attitude Recipe

Add 1 part Definite Decision. Don’t just think about it – go for it. A quitter never wins and a winner never quits.

Add 1 part Commitment. Go the extra mile. Everything you do, do your best. Your best will bring you closer to your dreams, no matter how menial the task.

Add 1 part Life Study. Objectively listen, ask questions, and observe yourself. You will always actively learn from every person you come into contact with, from everything you do, and from every experience.

Mix ingredients together, and place them in a willing mind free from excuses. Feed them to your conscious and subconscious mind till it becomes your individual success attitude.


We are a body, a mind, and we have a human spirit. For a little fun, Percy and I thought we’d like to share a gluten and lactose free recipe to delight your taste buds.


Peanut Butter & Marshmallow Sandwich Cookies

Makes 24 cookies and 12 sandwiches.


1 cup (250 ml) natural peanut butter

1 cup (225 grams) sugar

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Marshmallow Fluff (if using)


Preheat the oven to 350 F and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix on low until combined. Use a small ice cream or cookie scoop and drop 1 ½ tablespoonful’s of dough onto the prepared backing sheets. Use a fork to flatten the mounds of dough and create a criss-cross pattern on each cookie.

Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes or until golden around the edges. Remove from the oven and rest on the baking sheet for a few minutes until the cookies firm up enough to transfer to cooling racks.

Once cooled spread at least 1 heaping tablespoonful of Marshmallow Fluff onto the back on one of the peanut butter cookies and top with another. Enjoy!


In closing as we say goodbye to 2014, Percy Stoma and I extend our best wishes from our home to your home. As you ring in 2015, may the magic of new beginnings fill your home and heart with peace and joy. We sincerely wish that the next year ahead will be your best yet.

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay


Everyone you meet has a story to tell.”

Welcome To The Planet

We are once again awakened from the slumber of life’s everyday routine. Through the scramble and the chaos of the language of the body, fuelled by primal energy, our 6th grandchild came out to greet the world this past week.

Our little one who has rocked our world is ready now to be present for a lifetime of lived experience, refracted through the lens of her body, emotion, mind and human spirit experiences.

She enters her story into recorded history. A story that is a unique microcosm of a larger tapestry of family, community, nation and planet. As she grows and develops, she will weave the strands of her individuality into the genetic cloth of her ancestral bloodline with a thread that cannot be broken.

As her grandparent, her presence thoroughly intoxicates me. From the point of view of an ostomate who has captained her ship during a storm of experience, weathered nature’s power, and the threat of death, my second chance at life has graced me with you, our sweet little belly fruit.

How exquisite my bonus days have become, I’m now seasoned with sugar, spice and everything nice. I have been given another opportunity to embrace, caress and admire this generation’s newest family treasure. Together we will travel upon the wind, as we feel the flutter of fairy wings. We will bounce balls and spin jacks with our sixth sweet and delicious fruit that clings to the family tree.Planet Earth

Welcome to planet Earth, little Liviana. Thank you for joining us at this time. This is my pledge to you and to all of the little ones of your generation, wherever they live in the world who are arriving and those who will come: I as a member of the human family will do all that I can to build a better world for you. I will actively participate in the honouring of every nationality, ethnic group, and gender. Through consistently building upon my own wisdom gained through experience, I will actively contribute to increasing your knowledge as I pass on the learning to you, our next generation. I will assist you in keeping alive the legacy of those who came before you as they are your roots. I will endeavour to provide you with food and other things that are needed to live healthy and that will assist you in growing stronger. In actions and feelings I surround you and hold within, unconditional and pure love, so that you will always know how special and magnificent you truly are.

Thank you for you.

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay


Everyone you meet has a story to tell.”

What We’ve Lost – What We Have

So many changes occur for anyone and everyone when they face illness, a significant emotional event, or life alteration(s), whether chosen or thrust upon them. Ostomates such as myself are not an exception, and we at one time had to face all of them.

There are many reasons why a person will undergo surgery to become an ostomate, and none of them are easy. Whatever it was or will happen that will bring a person to a life alteration, they will experience feelings of being bent and broken. Our body, mind, emotions and human spirit screams for a second chance at life.

Whatever our life situation may be, one thing is for sure, living is not for wimps, and none of us can change the past. We cannot take away or erase the incident or circumstance that started everything. What we can do is, put one foot in front of the other, and then continue on our way, in spite of it all.

There are very few of us who are fearless in the face of loss, and the memory of what we once had. With each foot moving forward we march to the beat of our recovery drum, and sway to the rhythm of our new normal, all the while, doing everything possible to shake off the terrible fear.

When a significant emotional event occurs in a lifetime, and every life I know has had at least one, and most often, people have had many, our way of looking at ourselves, our lives, and the people around us is forever changed. Some of us feel trapped by the life altering condition, and for others, we experience a grieving process that eventually leads us to the promise of a full life, even in the face of uncertainty.

All life is fragile and limited. Before our life altering and significant emotional event, (SEE), life wasn’t always fair. We didn’t know how long our lives would be, no one really knows. We at times lived without peace, and the journey was not always smooth. Then the SEE happened, and we lost somethings, for some of us we even lost the use of body parts. And, we will never look at ourselves and life the same way again. Yet, life is still fragile, limited, and precious. Life isn’t always going to be fair. We don’t know how long we will live, no really knows. At times we will live without peace, and the journey will not always be smooth. This is what we have.

Before and after our SEE, we navigate along our life path, and it takes a lot of time and work to nourish our body, mind, emotions and human spirit. The potential energy that can fuel our progress lies in discovering the pleasure of living each moment to the fullest. The appreciation of life’s smallest pleasures, and the all out, no holds barred grandest of life’s happenings. What we’ve lost is gone.

What we have, is precious and can be easily lost again. Life inhales, and then exhales again. There are times when we feel hurt, isolated, and angry. There are times when we are energized, awake, and alive. We need to allow ourselves to grieve, and even take a time out. And then, SEE a doorway of opportunity opening up, and just walk right through it, come what may.

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay


Everyone you meet has a story to tell.”

Better With A Bag Than In A Bag is now available on KOBO

We are pleased to announce that not only is “Better With a Bag Than In a Bag” available with Amazon in paperback and on kindle, in Canada, USA, United Kingdom, Europe and Japan, this compelling tale that speaks to the human spirit, that brought author Jo-Ann L. Tremblay from the brink of death to recovery through humour and inspiration, is now available with KOBO. Check out KOBO at http://tinyurl.com/ngrlp82. For further information and an additional list of on-line book dealers offering the book, and how you can purchase your very own copy,  just click “Better With a Bag Than In a Bag” at the top of THE OSTOMY FACTOR blog Home Page, above.

The cover of the book is a photograph of an original oil painting of Percy Stoma by artist, author, photographer and ostomate Jo-Ann L. Tremblay  titled, “Percy A Self Portrait”.  Stoma’s are often referred to as a “rose bud”, when you turn the book upside down, Percy’s image turns into a beautiful red rose bud.
Better WITH a Bag Than IN a Bag



Heartfelt TeddyHere I am snuggled up to her, my dear ostomate, I’m all warm and safely tucked in. The family room air conditioning is blowing cool air down on us, on an already cool day. Breakfast finished, her 80 year old Mother is reading the morning paper. With every turn of a page, the sound of crinkling newspaper brings back memories of her childhood. Then, her mother’s hair was light brown, now her silvery white hair glistens in the golden glow of the lamplight.

Her sister is reading a book that must be at least 1000 pages thick. It has a beige cover with a dark brown spine. One of her old and much loved literary treasures. With each word she reads about angels and healing, she reminds Jo-Ann of a cat in a pool of sunshine curled up in the bulky chair. Every once in a while she closes her eyes and takes a short nap.

Her husband Mark, sits in the tapestry covered chair, the musician and high tech wizard is reading another biography on his ebook reader.

The TV from the other room is filling the air with the muffled chitter chatter of the morning news program. The last super moon till 2015 is now fully set, and a sunrise is spreading it’s rays into an azure sky. All of this brings sweetness to the beginning a new day. Yet, we are a family in fear. We are family with optimism. We are a family together without one.

I’m Percy Stoma, and me and my family are sitting in the “family room” of the Heart Institute in Ottawa, Canada. The University of Ottawa Heart Institute, (UOHI), is Canada’s largest cardiovascular health centre. A complete cardiac centre, encompassing prevention, diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation, research, and education. The UOHI was founded by Dr. Wilbert J. Keon. The Order of Canada recipient, was the first Canadian to implant an artificial heart into a human as a bridge to transplant. It is the Institute that is world renowned for many other procedural and technical heart saving and life enhancing break throughs.

From the volunteers who greeted us at the main entrance, the medical professionals, (nurses, technicians, and doctors), and even the custodial staff, with their beating hearts expressed all of the heart felt care, concern, competency and professionalism a family needs at a time like this, a time when our loved ones life hangs in the balance.

You see, Jo-Ann’s Dad is at this moment undergoing open heart surgery. Our patriarch is 80 years young, a man who has always kept himself in top physical condition. We are in shock as he’s the last person we would have thought would be in the operating theatre, undergoing triple bypass surgery.

He’s a force of nature, a man who has been our mentor. And, in this moment the landscape is dramatically different. We are adrift. We are in the middle of nowhere, and at the same time somewhere we never expected to be.

It’s Jo-Ann’s second chance at life, I her Percy Stoma is the biological mechanism she relies on to stay alive and present right now with her beloved family. The people she most wants to be with, in a place and a circumstance she doesn’t want to be at. Life – hmm… throws curves, zingers, and how many left turns does a person take in a lifetime. Sure would be nice if a person is born with all the coping tools to get through it all like a breeze. Well, as George Gershwin (famous musician and composer) put it, “Life is a lot like jazz – it’s best when you improvise”.

So here we are, improvising, as the hours are ticking by. With the family snuggled in the “family room”, on the surface it’s almost a sweet and dreamy scene. Then, the cardiac surgeon fills the doorway of the room, and like a blaring alarm his presence shakes us awake. “The surgery went well. Quicker than we planned. He’s now in the Intensive Care Unit, (ICU). It will be a few hours more, and then you’ll be able to visit him”, he said.



During the following days we switched to a recovery mode that carried us day by day to the happy place.

But, as Jo-Ann’s life experience has never been conventional, another one of life’s curves lay just ahead, lying in wait for her.

Her Dad was now on the 3rd floor of the Heart Institute. Amazing Earth Angels in the guise of nurses mostly, and Doctor’s, had been attending to our beloved for 5 days post surgery, now. It was early Saturday morning when Mark awakened with pain and heaviness in his chest.

With a shot of nitroglycerin (nitro), which opens up (dilates) the arteries in the heart, (coronary arteries), under his tongue, he waited five minutes. The discomfort abated for a short time, and then it returned. He administered a second shot of nitro. The pain and heaviness subsided. He suggested he should stay home and relax.

Jo-Ann said, “no-no-no, you’re not going to be alone when you’re feeling like this. We’re picking up Mom and Diane, and heading to the Institute to be together with Dad. You’re not going to be alone, and besides which, the Heart Institute is the best place to be if you have another episode.”

So off we went. Well, as life would have it, on route Mark began to experience another episode. Keeping all of this quiet in order to spare our family from additional stress at this time. We arrived at hospital and into the room we quickly entered. Jo-Ann devised a bit of a ruse and explained to her Dad, that she had not been able to take her usual morning walks, and I needed these walks to help keep me flowing, and so, she was going to take a walk, and Mark was coming with her.

Jo-Ann, Mark and I walked out to the nurses station, and Mark said to one of the staff, “You’re not going to believe this, but, I’ve had to administer two separate shots of nitro this morning, and I’m not feeling very well.”

They promptly sat him in a wheelchair and rushed him across the hospital campus to the Emergency Department of the Civic Hospital. During the following hours, Mark was now hooked up to monitors which were keeping a close watch on his vitals, and he required two more shots of nitro to fully stabilize him.

He was admitted to the Heart Institute, and now tucked into his bed in a ward on the 5th floor. We are a family in fear. We are an optimistic family. We are a family together without two.

In the days that followed, JoAnn, myself and family rode the elevators between the 3rd and 5th floors. Jo-Ann’s Dad was concerned for his son-in-law. He could fully relate to Mark’s situation and feeling he wanted to reach out, had a vase of flowers with a little white teddy bear delivered upstairs from him to Mark.

A grateful, delighted and touched Mark, took pictures of the flowers and teddy, so that Jo-Ann’s Dad would be able to see them.

A couple of days later, Jo-Ann’s Dad was discharged home to the care of her mother and sister, while Jo-Ann and I continued our daily trek to the Institute for our Mark.

Many tests were conducted, all was quiet for Mark, and there were no other episodes.


Jo-Ann and I had been sleeping at night with the phone on the pillow beside her head, when all of a sudden we were awakened at 4:00 am, by the ringing of the phone.

The nurse on the other end of the line stated, “Mark has had an eventful night, and is now being moved to the 1st floor, into the Coronary Care Unit. He is stable and if there is any other concerns, we’ll call you immediately.

In our state of emotion, I became a little overactive, hmm… sorry Jo-Ann, I just couldn’t hold back.

We arrived at the Coronary Care Unit on the 1st floor, after getting into the elevator and pressing the button for the 5th floor. Then, realizing she had pressed the wrong button, Jo-Ann promptly pressed the 3rd floor button, only to realize as the elevator doors opened, that she really wanted to press the 1st floor button. Geez!

Arriving into a room that looked just short of the ICU, we saw a rosy-faced and smiling Mark. After his cheery and affectionate greeting, he stated, “I don’t know where my teddy is. He didn’t arrive with me.”

When Mark had started the episode at about 3:30 am earlier that morning, there had been a flurry of activity as the monitoring instruments were sounding off. There were alarms that could be heard throughout the 5th floor. Nurses and Doctors had jumped into controlled and coordinated action. Mark’s lovely ward mates in the other beds were very concerned and worried for Mark, who was in the process of being stabilized and then hustled from the ward room to the 1st floor.

The nurses had gathered all of Mark’s clothing and what not, during the excitement to be moved with him. But as it was, the flowers and teddy had not moved with him. Teddy was missing in action. He had disappeared, he was no where to be seen.

When I was satisfied I could leave Mark for a short while, I headed up to the 5th floor to relay to Mark’s ward compatriots that he was fine, and to locate his missing teddy. The fella’s were relieved to hear about Mark, but no one had seen teddy.

We excused ourselves and went back to the first floor, pressing the correct elevator button this time.

Later that day we popped back up to the 5th floor to check in on the fella’s and to give them Mark’s health report. It was at this time a concerned nurse apologized to me, she could not find teddy anywhere.

Mark’s former ward mates, with sadness in their voices, told us they and the nurses had looked for teddy, and the little fella was no where to be found. You see, Mark had told them who the flowers and teddy had come from, about his father-in-law, and so, they knew how important teddy is.

We assured everyone that although we regret the loss of teddy, we are so grateful for the compassion and understanding of what teddy represents to us. And, we are grateful for their “all out 5th floor and elevator search “, for the little white fella. With a wave good bye we headed down the hall to the, yes, elevators, yet another time.

As we passed the nurses station, Jo-Ann turned her head to view all of the many trinkets, gifts and flowers passed on to them by patients and their families. Amongst the myriad of objects, Jo-Ann was surprised to see a little white fuzzy face, whose black eyes twinkled as they reflected the overhead lights, with a half smile peeking out from behind a blue box.


Snapping him up, sure enough, it was teddy. The nurses broke into broad smiles, Jo-Ann hugged teddy to her chest as she turned around and scampered back down the hall to the ward to show the fella’s that teddy has been found. Indeed teddy was intact, and within an elevator ride would once again be safe and sound with Mark.

Later that day Mark underwent an Angiogram that determined that although he’s experiencing A-Typical symptoms for a heart issue, his heart and arteries are healthy. The source of the issue lays elsewhere. There are many tests and such ahead of Mark, in order to pinpoint the source.

Today, Dad continues to recover beautifully, Mark is home, and teddy has a special place beside our bed.

In matters of the heart ; we are forever touched and grateful by the heart felt care expressed to our family by all of the special people at the Heart Institute in Ottawa, Canada.

And, speaking heart to heart; this has been an everyday amazing slice of life story. Sure glad I’m here for Jo-Ann doing my stoma duties and attending to my jobbies, so that Jo-Ann can be here for the experiences and times of her life.

Percy Stoma

Eol. Poopology

Better With A Bag Than In A Bag”

Vive la différence

The newest news about ostomates I’ve noticed, is the trend in breaking the taboo of ostomies and ostomy bags through posted photographic images.

Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are just a few of the social media being used by ostomates to show and share their colostomy, ileostomy, urostomy bags and scars.

They are young, middle-aged, elderly, male, female, and all of them are plucking up the courage to share themselves and their bags to wider and wider audiences.

I have heard some folks, (ostomates and non-ostomates) take offense to the photographic images, and I heard other folks cheering them on.

Aspiring model ostomate Bethany Townsend posted her image with Crohns and Colitis UK Facebook group with her story, and the photos went viral. (See more at: http://tiny.cc/6rofkx).

Then there’s male model Blake Beckford (33) from Stratford-upon-Avon, who suffered from ulcerative colitis, eventually his colon was removed and he has a permanent ileostomy. He had dreamed of becoming a fitness model before his 2003 diagnosis and after 10 years, he developed the confidence to pursue his ambitions, and he has landed a feature in Men’s Health Magazine. (See more at: http://tiny.cc/bwofkx)

These brave ostomates are working to make news as a way of getting ostomy attention, support, and for spreading awareness.

The tracks laid by ostomates everywhere is one of a trend that other industries are now climbing aboard and riding the vive la différence train. JC Penny for example is featuring disabled models in a recent campaign. The major retailer states they are committed to greater representation in the fashion industry, representing their diverse range of customers. To date I don’t believe they are featuring an ostomate, but who knows what next year will bring.

Then there’s Jessica Grossman, (24), of Ontario, Canada, who is a trailblazing campaigner for women with ostomies, inspiring them to embrace their ‘second chance at life’ through her initiatives. (See more at: Facebook – Uncover Ostomy).

Photo-based activities conducted by oneself or as part of an organized group or project is occurring in many forms of community settings, and are catalysts for political/social change and for community-strengthening. Ostomates sharing their images and stories shows to be an important step in allowing people to take pride in and ownership of their ostomy, building confidence and supporting their feelings of validation that they are being listened to and taken seriously.

In my understanding, the images I have seen represent a means to an end rather than an end itself, for the purpose of emphasizing their courage and well being rather than illness. They are sharing to engage in awareness, advocacy and possibly their own individual healing. The images provide opportunities for peer support, socializing with new people, (ostomates and non-ostomates), and personal support.

Sharing the ostomates realities is a way we can all be more understanding of one another, regardless of any differences we my have.

Percy and I feel this new and inspiring trend is an opportunity to send out a resounding cheer, “go ahead folks, be proud of who you are, you’re amazing, embrace your ostomy, inspire others, and keep spreading the awareness.

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay


Everyone you meet has a story to tell”

A Celebration Of Life

Today is a day of celebration for Percy Stoma and I. It was 3 years ago today I was at the brink of death as I underwent lifesaving surgery, and little Percy was created.

It’s our celebration of life day. A 2nd chance at life is the icing on the cake, the cherry on top!

Have a most excellent day everyone, enjoy each moment of it, and celebrate who you are.


    “Yes Percy”

    “We’re going to party all day till I get pooped out, aren’t we?”

    “Yap Percy, we sure are.”

    Happy day everyone!

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay & Percy Stoma

“Everyone you meet has a story to tell”

Walk A Mile In Other Shoes

A while ago my husband and I were taking a short vacation to visit our newborn granddaughter. We stopped at a roadside rest stop that offered various food chains for refreshments, and restroom facilities for travelers. In my excitement to meet our new little one, Percy became rather active, as sometimes happens to all of us when we experience positive or negative stress.

I headed for the restroom, as I knew I would have to change some of my ostomy equipment. I eyed the “wheelchair accessible” cubical which would provide Percy and I with a little extra room and sink facilities within the cubical, which we could really use for organizing, removing and handling our used flange/bag, and for applying the fresh new equipment efficiently and discreetly.

When finished I exited the cubical, and it was at this point a lady began to speak to me harshly and very loudly. Loudly, I assumed so that everyone in the restroom would notice me. She stated, “Those cubicles are for people who are handicapped. They need them and you’re wasting the space. I would think better and more respectful in the future, if I were you!” Caught by surprise, my first thought was, who appointed you the bathroom cubicle police?

After a couple of deep breaths I settled in and allowed her the opportunity to vent at me and finish her aggressive desire to put me in my place, according to her private logic. Meanwhile, I stood straight and tall, (well as tall as a 4 foot 11 inch woman can stand), and maintained eye contact with her.

A part of me congratulated her in my mind and heart. Here she was championing for any potential person who may require the wheelchair accessible cubical, that she felt that I without reason and certainly with disrespect had used and could have caused distress for another. My next thought was, I’m sure most folks in a wheelchair can speak for themselves. Then, the other part of my mind felt frustrated with her ignorance of what the situation Percy and I were in, and her need to publicly humiliate us.

When she was finished my only response in a quiet voice that I directed to her was;  “There are some challenges that are not as visible as others are.” Then, I lifted my shirt a bit and lowered the waistband of my shorts just a little, enough so that she could see the very top of Percy’s ostomy equipment. I then simply walked out of the restroom facility holding my head high.

In one way I could see where she was coming from. What she failed to remember in the restroom that day was, “Don’t judge a person until you have walked a mile in their shoes.” The earliest source of this enlightening wisdom I can find dates to the Cherokee people. Nelle Harper Lee, an American author was seemingly inspired by the saying in her book, “To Kill a Mockingbird”, where she wrote:

“You never really know a man until you understand things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

The graphic restroom incident is a grand life lesson, a reminder for Percy, myself and for all people, to be mindful that before we criticize another we should take the time to think ourselves into another person’s shoes, as we endeavor to be compassionate and empathetic.

Being able to empathize is the ability to identify and understand another person’s feelings without experiencing them for yourself at that particular moment. The ability to literally experience the world from another person’s perspective, to walk in their shoes, to view life from their living conditions and to feel what it feels like to be that person.

As I mentioned, part of my mind and heart felt encouraged that any visibly physically challenged person who may have entered the restroom would be championed by someone. In that moment I tried to see her from her vantage point, from where she viewed me exiting the cubicle with no visible physical challenge. I worked hard to leave my opinion of her aggressive behaviour aside for that short moment, no matter how arrogant and full of herself she appeared to me on the surface. While in this state of unbiasedness  I was able to assume she thought herself as a champion, and that was probably behind her behaviour. I gave her a brief and partial glimpse of my ostomy equipment that also exposed a small part of my extensive abdominal scarring from multiple major surgeries, as I felt it was only fair for her to share in the grand lesson with us, that she had precipitated. I have always felt that everyone has a story to tell, and I would like to add for today, “take the time to walk in their shoes, even for just a moment.”


Jo-Ann L. Tremblay


“Everyone you meet has a story to tell, take the time to walk in their shoes, even for just a moment.”



Percy and I are pleased to announce, the United Ostomy Association of Canada, (UOAC), has a new redesigned website click http://www.ostomycanada.ca. The UOAC welcomes everyone to grab a cup of coffee or tea, relax and spend some time with them as you explore their website.