A Stranger Came Into My Life…

One day, a person came into my life. A person and a day that changGratitudeed everything. They did not change the way I think about the world. Instead, through their professional expertise and commitment, they changed and altered in all ways imaginable the way I view myself, and they confirmed how I view everyone else around me.

Sitting in the examination room at the Ottawa Hospital, I anticipated seeing her again. Like the dawn, she had given me the shimmering glow of the hope of survival, and that a new day was possible. She who was there at the rising of my new beginning, my new normal, my renewed awakening.

She was once a stranger that I met on my journey to another destination. Perhaps it was fate that she would be the one who would create the masterpiece I call, “Percy”, my life-sustaining stoma.

Right here in this tiny room, during this tiny moment, I am reminded that my mortal body will not last forever, and yet every day since July, 2011, I have lived my gratitude for survival from the brink of death.

Then suddenly, with a vortex of rushing air from the hallway, mixed with the combination of antiseptic gasses and dust particles of my tiny room, the door opened and there she was. “Hello Jo-Ann, and hellooo Percy”, she blurted. In that instant a kaleidoscope of emotions took hold of me. Joy, excitement, trust, and once again an overwhelming feeling of gratitude. She was the one, she had been there at my lowest of low. The stranger who played a major role in saving me.

My gratitude is held treasured within me for Dr. Rebecca Auer, MD, MSc, FRCSC. She the capable surgeon, the stranger that came into my life that fateful day. She who is committed to saving life if at all possible. She who led the team of experts who repaired the many parts of my diseased and injured body. She who worked with natures original colon design, and fashioned an outstanding work of art, my ostomy.

I was delighted to see her and have the opportunity to once again express my gratitude, and to share the ripple effects and flow of her and her team’s accomplishments.

For me, gratitude is a multifaceted gem. One facet is the inner acknowledgement and acceptance of the truth of something dearly received. The second facet is the explicit and voiced declaration of gratitude that amplifies the inner voice out to the giver to be heard in the outer world. The third facet is the action of gratitude. Action is custom-designed to fit the experience. There are a myriad of actions that can be taken, for example; returning the kindness, paying it forward, or creating an enduring and long-lasting legacy.

During the few minutes we had together, Dr. Auer and I chatted about life. I was able to let her know that due to her and her teams culmination of study, practiced expertise, and commitment, I have taken my bonus years seriously. Three more grandchildren have been born since 2011, and I live the joy of my now seven grandchildren with the desire for more. I have been able to continue my travels to the far reaches of our beautiful planet with my husband, Mark. I have solidified my commitment (as my act of gratitude), to becoming ostomy knowledgable, and applying this knowledge and attendant experiences, to awareness and advocacy projects. In support of awareness and advocacy I have written 3 books on the subject of ostomy, ostomates, the life of the ostomate, and their caregivers. I am a member of the Canadian Ostomy Society – Medical Advisory Committee (MAC), holding the title and responsibilities of, “Ostomy Lifestyle Expert”, I write ostomy/life related articles for ostomy magazines in Canada, United States, and the United Kingdom.

I expressed my gratitude to her for doing everything professionally possible for her patients. I told her the reality for me, are the following core facts as I believe them to be:

  1. Because of her commitment to saving lives, her consistent desire to research/find solutions to life destroying diseases/circumstances, and her dedication to assist in ways possible as a surgeon, oncologist, professor, and researcher, she positively impacts the lives of her patients.
  2. The work she and her team(s) perform on a daily basis creates ripple effects, that expand ever outwards across and throughout not only the lives of her patients, but also the people they touch. Every moment longer a patient survives, another level of quality of life that is experienced, is a testament to their dedication which incrementally builds as their patients live their future. Their good works become our shared legacy.
  3. As one of her patients, I am in gratitude that I am alive and so, I am living my life to the fullest in spite of it all, and committed to ostomy awareness and advocacy.

A stranger came into my life and the world took on a different light. This person, this perfect stranger to me, saved my life, created my ostomy, and each day that I attend to my stoma, I glimpse the beauty of natures amazing design that is inside of us. I marvel at the creation I call Percy. I didn’t know this stranger but one thing is for sure, I am forever changed. Thank you.

Authored by:

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

Percy Stoma

“Everyone you meet has a story to tell.”

www.jo-annltremblay.com

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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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Family Like Friends & Friends Like Family

Sitting out on our Florida deck, I’m captivated by the manatee lazily floating by in the canal with a turtle perched on her back, reminding me of the events of the past week.Manatee:Turtle

We were delighted when our sister/brother-in-law and furry niece (Bernese Mountain Dog), arrived for a week long visit. Our experiences of magical moments, emotional touches, talking and laughing, are the meaningful gifts that are a part of making life special.

As life did unfold over the week, the friends we are fortunate to have here in Florida embraced our family adventure without hesitation, with enthusiasm and sharing; in birthday celebrations of a friend of ours, a day at the races, a gathering at a back deck campfire of smores (a decadent delight of fire cooked marshmallows sandwiched between chocolate and graham wafter cookies), and so much more. The days, nights and activities, were filled with fun, conversations, camaraderie, and the joy of a community of humanity celebrating family and friends.

Watching the manatee with the turtle on her back reminds me of the differences and similarities that make up each individual family member and friend. The nature of friendships and the nature of family are individually unique, yet, when you  boil it all down, each is an experience of what it means to be close. There is a special connection, and it is the connection of the heart. It is the journey of human souls joined for life.

Friends are like family and family are like friends, is the solid foundation we build our life experiences on, and that helps to keep us where we need to be. It’s amazing when you think of it, that someone else will believe in you, and will trust you with a friendship.

During my illness, the eventual ostomy surgery, and the lengthy recovery when my physical and emotional strength seemed to fail me half way through, it was my friends like family and my family like friends whose care, concern and love, drop by drop filled my heart, mind, and body till I was overflowing.

Mother Teresa said: “What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.”

So thank you Terri, Murray and Piper. Thank you our dear and generous friends. Thank you all for embracing us and each other.

Reach out to someone(s) in your past, current and/or future, be a friend like a family member, and a family member like a friend. There will be frustrations once in a while and you may have to carry them on your back from time to time, but that’s life too, one sure thing is, you’ll always remember how much they really mean to you, and how much you mean to them!

PS – March is Colorectal Cancer Month. Remember to tell your family, friends and yourself to schedule your colonoscopy, it could save a life.

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

Ostomate

www.jo-annltremblay.com

“Everyone you meet has a story to tell”

Listen to the Ocean

Gazing into the horizon the ocean stretches beyond. I find myself gather and merge, becoming part of the sand. I am drifting as I listen to my pondering breath, and noticefeb-2017-blog-photo  a briny tear slide down my cheek.

The ocean is talking, beckoning my soul as I match my heart to the oceans roaring heartbeat. The tips of the waves slice time and the hours stand still. I listen to the ocean and I hear a ghost song that draws me deep within where the mysterious tides of my life fill me with sadness, joy, and wonder.

The waves coming in and going out are the reflection of life itself. Musing upon the crested waves, I become aware of the ebb and flow of the beautiful moments, the fierce storms, and changing tides of our human experiences.

I am an ostomate standing on the windswept edge of the ocean of life. The mesmerizing waves captivate me as the white crested caps fold over gently. It is calm right now as I am drawn deep within. From the depths of the deep blue ocean the memories of times, incidences, and circumstances, of the past fill me with wonderment, each memory a dazzling and ever changing sunset.

My mind meanders to the quiet beauty when I was able to drift freely with the gentle currents of life, oh the freedom of those days. My mind now descending further into the depths of my experiences, brings me to the storm that my emotions endured through the illness, and then the alteration of my body function to create  my ostomy, “Percy”. The thunder of the ocean waves crashing on the sandy shore roar through my soul. My dark time haunts me like the clawing of the salty water slipping between the rocky fingers and back into the ocean, again and again.

Many a long night since, I have squished my toes into the unpleasant and unwanted scum left by the forces of the storm within, as the uncontrollable tides of my life rise and fall.

Time is slipping by, the storm calms more and more now. Life goes on, children and grandchildren are the joys of my life, our little frothing snowy white bubbles. My new adventures are making splashes that sparkle in the sunlight, as they dance all around me. Living in this ocean of life, listen and hear the soft pull of the siren’s call; treasures and wrecks lie beneath the surface, trials and tribulations ebb and flow, listen to the ocean from where life began, and journey into the discovery of life and of yourself.

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

Ostomate

“Everyone you meet has a story to tell”

www.jo-annltremblay.com

 

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

 

 

On The Edge & Close Enough To Kill

A human being is a fragile creature. Life is a test of survival for all. When the circumstances are right, we borderline invincible. When the circumstances are wrong

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Photo by: Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

we stand at the edge of the abyss and our scream of anguish stretches to infinity. We are a contradiction of strength and vulnerability, we are the hard and the soft.

Everyone we meet in this life at one time or for many times, have and will endure life on the bleeding edge of some form of disaster. Be it physical, emotional, intellectual, and/or an assault on their human spirit. The ghosts of past trauma shift amid the shadow play of light and dark. Always at the back of our mind we hear the whispering of potential future trauma, trauma we hope will never come.

As we stand on the edge and scan the deep within, we wonder if with foresight we can see the signs. Most of the time it’s a matter of hindsight and we feel we should have seen the signs.

Hubby and I have left our home in the frozen north and have arrived in our Florida home to spend our winter in the warmth of the southern sun, and into the welcoming arms of our Floridian friends. The fact of life as an ostomate is; no matter where I am a breach awaits a breath away. A potential intestinal obstruction lurks within. Chronic discomfort as I hold everything inside, gnaws at my very nerves igniting lightning bolts that spark, burn and singe. This is my ongoing challenge. Your challenging circumstances, whatever they may be, will cause a breach in your calm, an obstruction of flow, and an attack on your sensitive nervous system, and it is only a breath away. For everyone, life can turn in an instant for the worse or for the better.

Still, 5 years since my brush with death, a moment or a situation can at times leave me tense like a rabbit in the headlights. The disease and altered physiology I must live with now simmers as a low-grade anger warmed past grief. Trauma like this, or any trauma you have or will experience, can be tackled head-on-bulled-through without looking back. For most of us the trauma lives in layers of angles, colours, and textures, that at a drop of a hat, a familiar moment, a remembered smell, will dissolve us into a trembling heap.

Sitting on our Florida deck looking out upon the inland canal, frothy clouds brush the horizon. A gentle breeze whispers through the fronds of a palmetto brush. Bluie the Blue Heron and Edgar the Egret are fishing at the shore. The park is quiet as the sun sinks past its zenith, the lazy afternoon stretches out and in a few hours it will be the time of the  long shadows. This ancient and earthly ritual plays out every day, no matter our human experiences of the moment.

Painful memories are soothed as I run my fingers, trailing them down the arm of my chair. In this moment of time I’m relieved by the serenity and tinkling of the dancing water beside me. The urge to connect the past to the present is dissolving into the steamy warmth surrounding me.

Glancing back to Bluie and Edgar, our wild neighbours who gave us such joy last year, I’m reminded of my worry for them this fall when hurricane Mathew threatened its windy
terror. Bluie, Edgar and many of the wildlife eking out a living in the canal were in direct line of Mathew and their prospect for survival was precarious. Possibly they knew it was coming. Definitely they took the necessary steps available to them to increase their odds of survival. Then, they must have hunkered down to weather the tempest in a bottle, probably trembling in fear, only to emerge when calm reappeared. They returned to their goal of living full and fruitful, (in their case, fishy), lives. Sunning themselves, hunting and foraging for food, arguing with other feathered, scaled, and furry neighbours for territory and the best fishing grounds. Life in all its fury and calm, back to normal.

Their approach to life is amazing. They emerged from the depths of chaos to not only survive, but to thrive. They were close enough to have been killed, they hunkered down at the edge, they carry the scars, and they have moved back to the centre of their being to recapture and re-experience life. Their way is a powerful true life surviving and on to thriving, example for all.

We have catastrophes that descend upon us once, twice or many times in the span of our lives. If we survive it is imperative that we strive to thrive. It isn’t the easy journey, there are no individualized road maps to follow, there are always bumps on the road to navigate, and we wear the physical, emotional, mental, and human spirit scars. But, like Bluie and Edgar’s example, no matter the circumstances that brings us to the edge of the abyss, although we may feel vulnerable, tense and tingle, we need to muster the strength to transcend our fear as we step forward with the determined certainty to thrive. And, then there are the inevitable days we just need to hold our nose and get on with getting on with, in the hope that tomorrow will be a better day. And as they say, “that’s life”.

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

Ostomate

“Everyone you meet has a story to tell”

 

www.jo-annltremblay.com

 

 

BAGs Around the World – New Book Release

Ostomate Jo-Ann L. Tremblay and her stoma Percy, are once again the intrepid adventurers bags-around-the-worlddrawn into the incredible journey of 2nd chances at life in their newest book release, BAGs Around the World.

Boldly venture into experiences that transcend the normal limits of the everyday, through the true life escapades of an ostomate and her stoma.

Join authors Jo-Ann L. Tremblay and Percy Stoma on their quest to discover the meanings in and of life as they explore, muse, and ponder the life of ostomates and non-ostomates, in our challenging experiences as humans on planet Earth.

Through THE OSTOMY FACTOR, the book features blog posts beginning in the month and year of November 2012, and continues through 2015. The collection offers solace, inspiration and joy, as they ignite our human spirit.

Trek along with Jo-Ann and Percy as they share their sometimes humorous, sometimes tragic, and always adventurous real life stories through thoughts and words that readers find valuable in their daily lives for a chuckle, a tear, and for inspired contemplation.

ENJOY

Click  https://joannltremblay.wordpress.com/book-order-information/for more paperback and Kindle order information.

With excitment and joy,

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay & Percy Stoma

Check our newly designed website: www.jo-annltremblay.com

“Everyone you meet has a story to tell.”