A Life Unfolding As It Will

We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, as to have the life that is waiting for us. – Joseph Campbell (American Professor of Literature) Clouds

I hadn’t planned on this. I’ve already been pulled back from the almost dead. Isn’t that enough for one life time? I’m already a survivor after all!

These were the thoughts running through my mind as I pulled into the hospital parking lot. That grey and stone sanctuary of the ill. Just this past July 2018, I had attended my annual mammogram at the High Risk clinic. Lurking in the recesses of my mind was the memory of the masses that grew in my chest nearly 40 years ago. After surgery, my heart had swelled with gratitude that I was now a survivor. I was all clear! Back then, I had been warned of the dangers. I guess a survivor is never home free.

Obviously the mammogram procedure this July was successful, all medical values, standards, professionals, and equipment up to scratch. After the almost 40 years of “All Clear”, I got the dreaded “call back”.

A second mammogram, and an ultra sound later, yes, there are 2 masses confirmed. They are in the same exact location as the nasty ones of old, snuggled deep in my chest just above my heart. How ironic is that!

Within a week I was in a hospital room with a Doctor and two nurses undergoing a biopsy, which should have taken about 30 to 40 minutes, and in the end took a couple of hours. Those two masses have strategically placed themselves so deep in my chest that there was a concern of inadvertently piercing my lung. I had once been told, “You’re weird and God hates you”, at this same hospital 8 years ago, (7 months before my life sustaining ostomy was created), by the attending Physician who was frustrated due to the fact that he could not find the source of my ailment. These words flooded back to me as I lay awkwardly while the biopsy was performed. “Maybe that Doctor 8 years ago was right,” I thought.

With the biopsy behind me, I had to wait 4 weeks to finally attend the follow-up appointment to receive the results of the biopsy. It sure has felt like four of the longest summer weeks of my life!

So here I am pulling into the hospital parking lot again, on my way to the results appointment. After I parked the car, I then moved along the concrete walkway leading to the sliding doors. As I took each step I noticed the windows reflected the bank of clouds gathering on the horizon behind me. Was this an omen of things to come?

I gazed up and down, and right to left as I pressed on to the entrance. The voice in my mind was strong, clear, and penetrating, and it asked; “what will she say, and how will I react?”

When I arrived at her office and sat myself down, emotion overwhelmed me, and in walked my Doctor and her assistant.

With an ear to ear smile on her face she said, “We found it and we got it in time. The cells are abnormal, but they are not malignant at this time. We need to remove the lumps as soon as possible. The not so good news is, we have to do surgery. My assistant will call you after the long weekend…”

A surge of emotion overwhelmed me once again. This time the strong, clear, and penetrating voice in my mind screamed. “Thank you!” And, for a moment I’m sure I felt my heart swell with gratitude. After my first bout with malignancy I had planned that there would be no more of this nonsense. After my multi-year debilitating illness that climaxed with near death, and the creation of Percy Stoma, I had planned, that there would be no more of this nonsense.

Well, no more plans for me for a while! I think I will simply live the moments. I will take each day as it comes. I will live it to the fullest, as my interesting life unfolds as it will. Well, for the next little while anyway.

Authored by:

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

“Everyone you meet has a story to tell.”

www.jo-annltremblay.com

Are you interested in reprinting or republishing this blog? With your written request, be our guest. We want to help connect people with the information they need. We just ask that you link back tojoannltremblay.wordpress.com, preserve the author’s byline and refrain from making edits that alter the original context. Questions and your reprint/republishing request(s) go to: www.jo-annltremblay.com, click on the “contact” page, and fill out the contact form.

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Goodbye 2017-Hello 2018

As the sun sets on 2017, “Wow, what a year”, comes to mind. It has been

Sunseta year of extremes on this living orb we call Earth.

Canadians celebrated throughout the year, as we wished Happy 150th Birthday to Canada. We partied in every community across the country, and what a party it was!

We participated in the celestial dance of the sun and moon, as many of us watched the eclipse. We stood in communal awe at the wonders of the universe. There were an onslaught of monster hurricanes that ravaged and devastated so many. It has been a year of fires, floods, and ferocious winds.

There were of course a slew of shocking controversies, great global tensions, bombshell revelations, and investigations. There was a lot of fuzzy fact-fiction going around. It has been a year feminism fought back, a year of apologies for behaviour, and the #MeToo movement.

On a more personal note, throughout 2017, I have been grateful to the Ostomy Community on the national and global levels. We have had to sadly say goodbye to some of our ostomy family, friends, and colleagues. And, there are many who have joined the ostomy community this year. Although most of us never expected to have this life saving/altering surgery, it is with caring and sharing that we welcome you to the “fellowship of the bag”. Through Support Groups, Newsletters, Associations, Social Media Groups, and more… we have reached out and touched each others’ lives, as we worked hard to share information, to comfort, spread awareness, and help in reducing taboo’s and stigma.

Percy Stoma and I would like to thank everyone for your support. THE OSTOMY FACTOR Blog continues to focus on ostomy/life information, awareness, and advocacy. Each blog publication explores the life and thoughts of an ostomate and her stoma buddy. Percy and I, through this blog and our books, (Better WITH a Bag Than IN a Bag, Another BAG Another DAY, and, BAGS Around the World – available through Amazon), do hope you continue to enjoy our individual and collective, life adventures and antics, in 2018.

As the sun sets on 2017, and a new sun rises on 2018, it is our wish that the next year ahead will be the best year yet, for all.

Authored by:

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

Percy Stoma

“Everyone you meet has a story to tell”

www.jo-annltremblay.com

Are you interested in reprinting or republishing this blog? With your written request, be our guest. We want to help connect people with the information they need. We just ask that you link back to joannltremblay.wordpress.com, preserve the author’s byline and refrain from making edits that alter the original context. Questions and your reprint/republishing request(s) go to: www.jo-annltremblay.com, click on the “contact” page, and fill out the contact form.

On a Wing and a Prayer

My nose pressed against the window, the plane is transporting us across the sky, we are headed for Orlando, Florida airport. From my cramped seat I lower my tearful eyes downward. The wisps of white clouds are racing by. With a deep sigh and a heavy heart, I lift my eyes up to the brilliant fluffy white clouds above. Beams of sunlight pour through the openings. Shafts of brilliance holding the hope that this is all just a dreamtime. But, I know I am not dreaming, and I miss her greatly.

You see, it was 2 years ago at our winter home in Florida when we headed down to the lagoon. There we enjoyed the wild dolphins, birds, water, clouds and every other treasure nature can offer. The first of what would become our daily 4:00 p.m. ritual.

We arrived and settled down on a bench and I looked over to my left and there, sitting in her wheelchair was an elderly woman. Beside her was an elderly gentleman in his golf cart. Both were looking out to the water. It was then that she looked over to us, and gave me a brilliant smile. Her smile lit up my heart, and it has glowed with her light ever since.

We walked over to introduce ourselves and the gentleman said; “Pleased to meet you. My name is Bill, and this lovely lady is my wife Straucie. She had a stroke a number of years ago and it took away her ability to speak.”

I said, “Oh that’s okay, I can’t hear well, she can’t talk well, hmm… we’ll find a way. From that day forward, Straucie and I had many lively conversations. Somehow, Straucie and I found our ways to communicate. Straucie could say a few words such as a long drawn out, “yeees”. With her facial expressions, animated body language, and her sharp mind, we discussed life, struggles, blessings, and all manner of the stuff of life. Bill and my husband Mark were often perplexed as to how Straucie and I could have discussions. At one point during our conversation, I would turn to the fellas and say, “Straucie was just telling me…”, the fellas would look at me and Straucie with crooked smiles, and then Straucie would give them a determined nod and say, “yeees”. Yup, we had discussed and understood one another!

Bill and my husband Mark talked about football, politics, and all manner of interests to them. Bill shared many stories of he and Straucie’s life together, and I must say they had us laughing at their adventures and antics.

Just about every day our feisty Straucie would head down to the lagoon at top motorized wheelchair speed with a glowing smile on her face, while Bill followed her in his golf cart. Straucie’s body was paralyzed on the right side, and at 93 years of age, Bill was taking care of her, the house, and meals with the full and consistent assistance of their dear daughter Sandy, and son-in-law, Mark. Together as a team their beloved Straucie was well taken care of.

Our love for Straucie and Bill grew to include Sandy, Mark, their children and grandchildren. Friends became like family and family like friends. As mentioned, the stroke had robbed Straucie of her ability to speak full sentences, but as we found out, she was able to sing. So sing we did! Straucie had a lovely singing voice and when she sang, many words came out clear. Together we sang her favourite hymns, and other songs including some silly ones like: Mairzy Doats which is a novelty song written and composed, in 1943, by Milton Drake, Al Hoffman, and Jerry Livingston. The songs refrain, as written on the sheet music, seems meaningless, but it is not.

Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey,

A kiddly divy too, wooden shoe…

We would both melt into giggles and laughter with the silly words. She amazed me with her ability to articulate each word, in tune and on pitch.

In the weeks before Christmas of last year, Straucie, Sandy and I went shopping. Straucie and I purchased matching Christmas sweaters. Both of us refused to wear them until Christmas day. We sure had fun being twins for a day!

We are snowbirds, Florida is our winter home only, so in May it was time to head north and return to Canada. We bid our tearful good byes with the promise we will be returning in November. We text Bill just about everyday and send pictures of our summer adventures for their delight.

In early August, Straucie fell ill. Although everyone did all that they could, our Straucie succumbed to her illness, and on the wings of angels she passed, August 14th, 2017.

With my nose pressed against the window, we are on our way to give our final good bye to the lady that lit our hearts with the brilliant light of joyful friendship, family, and love.

Bill, Sandy, Mark, granddaughter Michelle, other family and friends, gave Straucie a celebration of life she would have been delighted with. Songs were sung. Poetry, and a letter she wrote to Bill were read at the gravesite. Personal stories shared. All of this was enveloped in the love we have and hold for friends like family, and family like friends.

We miss you Straucie, we will always hold you in our thoughts. You cozied up in our hearts, and you will forever have a soft place to be lovingly remembered. Thank you for you our beloved.

With all of our love, Jo-Ann, Mark, and Percy xo

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The Tapestry of Life

“Plan for the future because that’s where you’re going to spend the rest of your life” – Mark Twain

There is the common thread of life that binds our collective and individual lives and this is the thread of change. 2016 has been a year of many global and individual chanxmas-lights-blogges, and it has set the scene for many more changes to come in 2017.

All People must cope with change, moving from one situation to another. In addition to life’s habit of thrusting change upon us, ostomates and any other folk who are physiologically altered, change and all of its psychological challenges are magnified manyfold.

We want the comfort of staying in a life space that is familiar, but, inevitably and consistently change weaves in and throughout the tapestry of our life story. We can only hope change is a good thing. All changes even good ones, as with the creation of a life saving and sustaining stoma, for most of us, well we just don’t transition smoothly.

Often our minds and our guts sends us strong opposing responses. We have to let go, this is challenging, so we catch ourselves trying to build the missing pieces back in. Of course they no longer exist as we move forward through the changes. What we are really trying to do, is to find the ways and means by which we can balance the conflicting emotions about the change.

The price for balance is often a valuable and burdensome journey that teaches
us about ourselves, our lives, and mostly what is inside of our heads.

Balancing through change is a lonely task, we may be fortunate to have supportive people in our life, but when it comes down to it, it is done alone. This makes us feel isolated, separated from our family and friends. Focus is required, and so, change is stressful for our brain, it becomes overworked, and an overworked brain does not function well. Change can cause irritability when it means we must change our behaviour patterns. Sheesh, ostomates sure can relate to this one!

It’s tough coming to the realization we can no longer accept what we previously had, and we feel dissatisfied. The feeling of being lost before we find our way, is powerful. It’s not easy transitioning and dealing with a whole new set of expectations, emotions and experiences, it is daunting.

Sometimes we feel lost when we are creating a new reality and we’re somewhere new. The thread of change consistently weaves in and throughout our lives. The changes we will experience during the coming year will challenge us and our entire future lives. Life goes on, and as the ancient Chinese philosopher and writer Lao Tzu said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”.

Our destination is tomorrow, plan for what you can, want, and need. Take the step into the changing unknown and may the bright colours of health, happiness and prosperity, illuminate the tapestry of your life throughout 2017.

From our home to yours, may you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

 
Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

Ostomate

Percy Stoma

EOL. Poopology

“Everyone you meet has a story to tell”

www.jo-annltremblay.com

 

 

BAGs Around the World – New Book

Step into a journey through experience and transcend the normal limits of everyday life. Join in the intellectual, emotional, and physical pilgrimage to discover the meanings in and of our lives. Be touched by bags-around-the-worldthe spirit of the fellowship of people around the world as we celebrate 2nd chances at life.

Better WITH a Bag Than IN a Bag, introduced Percy Stoma to the world. Another BAG Another DAY, marched to the beat of the recovery drum. Now, the newest book, BAGs Around the World, transports us to the far reaches of our everyday human experiences and life adventures.

Join Percy Stoma and Jo-Ann L. Tremblay, as they explore, muse, and contemplate the life of ostomates and non-ostomates, in our challenging life experiences as humans on planet Earth.

BAGs Around the World, is coming to Amazon worldwide October 2016.

Stay tuned over the next few weeks for more information on how you can order your copy of BAGs Around the World.

Friends Are Better Than Therapy

We left our home in the cold north last November to spend the winter in the warm sunny south. It was at this time we also left our friends behind. We arrived at our

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Photographer: Jo-Ann L. Tremblay 

winter home in a community where we knew only a few people, it could have been lonely, but as it turns out this is not the case.

We have become members of a neighbourhood with a true sense of community. There is no doubt the setting is well kept and beautiful, and our little home is nestled on the banks of a canal filled with fish, waterfowl, and the occasional alligator. But the natural beauty is only part of the joy, it is the people who pull it altogether.

In the mornings when I take a walk, everyone I meet along the way, greet one another with a smile and a wave. If someone needs a helping hand, there is a line up of folks ready to give of themselves. In the afternoon when I wander down to the bay, people exercising their dogs, people fishing, and folks like me simply enjoying the day, catch up with the latest news. Our community friends are our pals and buddies.

We all have different lifestyles, have come from different places, we follow separate paths, thoughts and memories, yet the feeling of fellowship with each other is powerful indeed.

A short while ago I met a new friend who is a fellow ostomate. She is new at this life altering living and we spent an afternoon sharing our experiences and knowledge gained. At the end of our delightful afternoon we decided to organize a “ladies night out”. Within a  few weeks through word of mouth, we decided to go to the Crab House Restaurant within walking distance from our community, and off we went. With laughs, giggles, great conversations, sharing pictures and more, we who are ostomates and our non-ostomate friends shared a wonderful evening of food, drink, merriment and camaraderie.

Communities come in all shapes and sizes, and they come together for different reasons. We humans are social and when we share a feeling of community with others we are drawn together in fellowship regardless of age, race, colour and creed. Together no matter our personal circumstances, challenges and triumphs, we receive and express support, balance, harmony and joy with our community of humanity and our world.

In our book of life the next page is blank. As we greet the new day a page is turned, and we fill that page with our life happenings. The people who share the day with us sit at the heart of our story. As always the language of the heart is eloquent.

Fellow ostomtes you are not alone, join an ostomy support group, become a member of an ostomy social media group, connect with your ostomate and non-ostomate friends and neighbours. When you do this, you fill the pages of your life story with the joy of people, as you strive to live your life to the fullest, come what may.

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

Ostomate

“Everyone you meet has a story to tell”

Website: jo-annltremblay.com

 

 

Do Our Hearts Need To Break To Grow?

Everyone has a story to tell and I am struck by the stories that speak to the moments of

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Chris’s Rainbow Cloud. Photographed by: Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

our lives. Each of us who are ostomates and the non-ostomates who share our lives, have an extraordinary capacity to heal from the greatest tragedies and this fills me with awe.

Every year the month of February is a bitter-sweet journey for me. It is the month that we celebrate my son Richard’s birthday, this year he turns 38. He, our little miracle who we were told could never be. It is also in February that we mark the death day of our son Chris. I’ve lived his death day for 42 years now, and I still feel the unspeakable joy of being graced with him, and then the feeling of his passing impacting me to the core of my being. It is the day I have to accept that he has left us. It is the anniversary of the wailing good bye. It is the annual reminder of how fragile and precious life is, and how deeply and profoundly I love with all of its risks.

Many times through the past 42 years I have tried to make sense of how this could have happened. How could a seemingly healthy 4 month old baby be taken from his parents? Why did it happen? He didn’t do anything wrong, he was just a baby! Then once and again there are the fresh tears as I accept the unbearable pain of good bye.

Through the years I’ve deeply questioned everything I think I know and how I think I know it. Chris, his birth, his short life and his death has been a tragic great teaching for me. Chris taught me life is precious and fragile. He has taught me the world is a wondrous and mysterious place. He has taught me that although I at times feel profound sadness as I stand lonely amid my community of humanity, these are also the same people who with an open heart lend me courage as I face searing heartbreak.

Does our hearts have to break to grow? I do not know the answer to this question. What I have learned is; I refuse to allow any life tragedy to over take me as I feel in my heart life goes on and I will live life to the fullest, I believe my dearest wants that for me. That all life is uncertain, and if we choose to love, it will mean keeping our heart open in the face of perpetual uncertainty. When our courage is tested and we face crisis, a small door opens somewhere inside and we begin to ponder life. Through tragedy we become seekers launched on a path where everything and everyone becomes a life lesson that touches and teaches us.

The nightmare does have a happy ending. Chris’s short life blessed the entire family with joy, and his great life and death teachings of unconditional love, the fragility of life, and the gift that all life no matter who we are or how short it may be…lives on.

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

Ostomate

“Everyone you meet has a story to tell.”