Life Goes On…

I felt as if my life and myself as I knew it was being erased. My hands were shaking and my bottom lip trembled. I was told to do this and to do that. I had no choice. Another White Feathertragedy had happened, and my life seemed to have fallen short, again!

When I awakened from life saving surgery, once again I faced the interesting conundrum called, “Life Change”. Do I go along for the ride, not ask questions, not share the truth of my pain and confusion, as I stay in quiet desperation? Do I let this situation limit me, as I mourn what could have been, if things would have just stayed the same? Or, do I let go of the fantasy, that dream I had of my life, and at least make peace with the past. Let’s face it, I can’t go back to what I had.

I know this surreal place, the place where my current life intersects with my future me, and life. The crossroads where once again I am challenged to reevaluate and rebuild myself, and life again. Something I call recovery. I know it. It is a familiar place, I’ve been here too many times in my life. I buried my child, I buried a life partner of over 30 years, my only living child lives with an incurable disease. I was challenged to live with the illness that eventually led up to the creation of a life altering change, my permanent ostomy. Yes, I know this place.

When someone, or life treats us poorly, our natural response is to feel anger. If we hold onto anger/resentment from the individual/event, and take that into our future, there are dire consequences. Usually the consequences are at best a diminished life experience. At worst, we eliminate our ability to shift, evolve, and change over time.

Woe is me. Life’s not fair! Why me? For most of us it’s easy to be motivated by negative emotions. We all know this place too. Change is a hard challenge, especially ones we had little to no control over in the first place.

So, we can embrace, “why me”, and hope the passage of time will heal us. Or, we can use the time to recover. I say recover because there are some tragedies we just can’t consistently pack away neatly in the past and be done and over with. It’s just not truthful and realistic for me not to feel, in the depths of my being the bitter/sweet of Mother’s Day.

The viable goal becomes: long-term and sustainable change. Real change needs a positive platform to launch from. In my experiences, this is based on my desire to instruct and improve myself and life. This approach is strengthened by my desire to be caring and compassionate with myself. Self-care and compassion facilitates the recovery process. And finally, the platform supports my belief that when I grow as a person and have learned something to move my life forward, then the life changing challenge has served the purpose of bringing me closer to my meaningful success. My recovery process has continued.

I have not and never will take the changes I make as I recover all at once. Instead, I start somewhere, take measurable actions, (most of them small and specific). Then as life unfolds as it will, when a person, and event or a situation shows up in my life, I simply continue to march to the beat of my recovery drum.

When the next life change shows up in my life, and I am sure it will, I will once again feel myself and my life being erased. My hands will shake and my bottom lip will tremble. I will again find the ways and means to recover and grow as a person, as I navigate the recovery path. I will march ahead to learn something that will move my life forward. Then, this change will have served a purpose. And so, life goes on…

Author 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 to joannltremblay.wordpress.com preserve the author’s byline and refrain from making edits that alter the original context. Questions and our reprint/republish request(s) go to: www.jo-annltremblay.com. Click on the “contact” page, and fill out the contact form.

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We Know What Its Like…

We know what its like to suffer. We know what its like to persist. We know what its like to face death. We know what its like to survive.

We understand we have endured a life altering experience, and now we live 2 sides of ourselves for the rest of our lives. They say no matter how you split it, there are always two sides to every coin.

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On one side we are joyously grateful, our lives have been saved. On the other side, we are terrified of the altered body and function, we have to live with for evermore.

We worry about the potential for blockages. We are happy to at least, be able to poop in a bag. It sure is an endurance, but way better than the alternative, for every single one of us.

We are hyper focused on everything we eat. We are ever vigilant and prepared, in private and in public of any equipment breaches.

Our ostomy has made it all possible-but at what cost? Our bodies have been altered. Possibly our brains eventually become rewired too.

We are confronted with stigma by some, and praised for our persistence and courage to live life to the fullest, in spite of it all, by others.

We swim in a sea of nostalgia, longing for the old days. Yet, we do the happy dance that we now have more opportunities to live, love, and laugh.

We battle fatigue, discomfort and at times pain, on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis. And, because we were at the brink and have come back, we can do anything. We just have to strive, and push ourselves.

Some days we declare:

Today was the most crap filled day ever

And don’t try and convince me, that

There’s something special about everyday

Because when you explore in more detail, taking that closer look

My world is a poopie place

Now read the previous 5 sentences from the bottom to the top, and you will know what we also declare.

No matter how you split it, there are always 2 sides to every coin. Like it or not, there is duality to everyone’s life. Besides feeling our personalities seem to be split, what does the duality of life do for us? Duality is the great teacher and equalizer. It teaches us, that all aspects of our selves and lives, are rooted in the interaction between opposite and seemingly competing forces. The experience of these forces do not have to be viewed as opposite, in fact they can be complimentary. Like the wings of a bird, they definitely don’t cancel out each other, they purely offset each other. And, this is balance.

We know what its like to suffer. We know what its like to persist. We know what its like to face death. We know what its like to survive.

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. Questionsand your reprint/republishing request(s) go to: www.jo-annltremblay.com, click on the “contact” page, and fill our the contact form.

 

Dizzy, Twirling, Spinning, Torn, & Tattered

Arriving at our Florida home for the winter, we find ourselves in the

IMG_6286 wake of the churning disaster called, “Hurricane Irma”, and the tornadoes this powerful storm spawned.

Irma took a deadly toll as it ravaged the Caribbean, and then turned its toppling winds, rain deluge, and crashing waves to batter Florida, USA.

Many of our neighbours have sustained damage ranging from minor to major. Some have lost everything. Their homes swallowed and then spit out by the tornado, as the hurricane turned their world upside down. The booms, pounding, and rumbles have shaken their bodies, souls, and lives.

We are in a community in recovery. As we walk the quiet streets now mostly clear of debris, we observe the destruction. We hear the people’s stories of the stress and confusion of the situation, all of which has placed heavy demands.

My mind turns back to the health disaster and creation of my ostomy, “Percy”. Like our neighbours who have lived and are now recovering from their natural disaster, the impact is huge for those who survive them.

We usually have strong emotional reactions to these situations. Akin to the grieving process, we go through cycles of intense emotions.

As the hours, weeks, and months go by, most of us have recurring vivid memories of the disaster. These are flashbacks. Sometimes flashbacks are triggered by images or sounds that bring back memories of the event.

Some of us have difficulty concentrating, eating, and sleeping. We can experience physical symptoms in response to stress or trauma. We go into denial, shock, often experiencing feelings of being overwhelmed and numb. This is common.

Like the amazing nurses, doctors, and caregivers that are there for the ostomate, emergency crews, rescue teams, and repair corps, enter the disaster setting and become our life line. This is an emotionally powerful experience for everyone.

“Okay, how do we cope with all of this?”

To begin with, it’s plain hard! For the most part, in the beginning, we feel trapped as we try to stand in the storm. We need to be patient as we give ourselves time to experience the emotions, and try to deal with them as they come. We have to expect things will take a while to create a new normal.

If you feel alone in this, as often happens, ask for support from family, friends, and try a support group of people who have experienced the same thing. The ostomy community worldwide for example, have Ostomy Support Groups in many communities across the globe. Talking to others about your traumatic experience can help lift a heavy burden.

Work on getting a daily routine, we all need to experience some sort of stability in our life. Try to get plenty of sleep, and remember to eat healthy. Take care of your body, this will help in easing the stress on your mind. If you don’t experience relief, contact a psychologist or counsellor for extra support.

The bottom line is: Take it one bit and one bite at a time. Try not to tear off a whole chunk all at once.

“How do we go beyond coping and start healing?’

The majority of people will take whatever steps are available to protect and comfort themselves.  Individuals and communities in recovery will reconstruct themselves, gradually assimilating the disaster into their history, and continue the process of healing. Communities like people, have an amazing capacity to adapt to dramatic events and go on with life. People and communities undergo permanent change which has to be integrated with past and future.

People generally are for each other, helping those in need where possible. We certainly observe this quality in our Florida neighbours as they recover and rebuild.

An extraordinary outcome of surviving health and natural disasters is; “POSITIVE REAWAKENING”.

From the moment we become aware and feel gratitude for having survived we never look at the sky the same way again. The blueness is now so brilliant. The storm clouds so lurking with power. We become astounded at the startling intensity of biting into a piece of fresh fruit. The sunset reveals such exquisite colours. And so on…

Arriving at our Florida home for the winter, we find ourselves in the midst of toppled trees and damaged homes. We are part of a community that only a few months ago was twirled, spun, torn, and tattered. Yet, it is a cohesive community bound together by strong and resilient folks, bent on helping and supporting one another to rebuild their lives and each other one bit and one bite at a time.

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 adits 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 Crucible of the Bag

No More Searching…It’s in the Bag

The shift, that moment when I was never going to feel the same again, happened 6 years ago in the moment the surgeon advised us, “I recommend you say your good byes, noSun and roadw”.

I had just been prepped for emergency surgery. The expectation that I would survive the surgery was slim. It was my unplanned moment. As I lay at the edge of the point of no return, I looked into my husband’s eyes and said good bye to my life partner. I later realized I also said good bye to myself and my life as I had known it.

When the surgery to deal with my critical intestinal and internal situation was over with, and the days, weeks and months of recovery, I became aware that I was dodging death. I had traded a body bag for an ostomy bag.

During this time in my life the situation was a severe trial. As I embarked on the healing journey, the crucible of the bag caused different physical and psychological elements to meld, oppose and interact. I was fashioning myself into a new creation in my body, mind, and human spirit. I should have expired, I didn’t. Instead, every day since has become a bonus. I shouldn’t be here, and yet, I am.

The bonus days have afforded me with the opportunity to continue on a voyage of self-discovery, but my approach has profoundly changed. Often when we think of self-
discovery, we believe this is a journey of becoming aware of one’s true potential and character motives, resulting in happiness, awareness, clarity, and maybe even enlightenment.

Looking back as I live on bonus time, I have realized self-discovery has always taken me a lot of time and energy. More often than not, this life exercise has caused an army of thoughts to morph into an emotional battle. Always so many layers of complex past and current experiences, situations, events to be examined, considered carefully, pondered, and contemplated, which then leads to mulling, brooding, dwelling…… I would make a stride, and yet I found I was peeling back yet another layer, like an onion and that I had not really arrived at the core yet. So many of the layers are clouded, complex, and it will probably take a lifetime just to “get it” with even one of the layers. I’ve often felt like a dog chasing its tail, moving, and working hard under the illusion of travelling far, picking up speed, getting somewhere, only to realize I can go in circles for a lifetime. I worked very hard in this illusion for a lot of my life. As I stood at the gate to my bonus lifetime, I decided to ignore the noisy mind chatter, and I began the rest of my life.

The heart is eloquent and I find myself listening to it more often. It inspires my spirit to get up and go. There is no doubt the positive and negative experiences, events and situations of my past have played a significant role in shaping who I am. My approach to self-discovery through insights and my personal evolution has changed.

I find myself creating purpose, rather than searching for it. With this approach I don’t dig deep, the affect of this has caused me to become deeply light-hearted. Purpose has become an exercise in simplicity and minimalism.

I realize my current beliefs and I live by them, while being flexible. I do not lock myself into one belief box and throw away the key.

Without over dramatizing, reliving and over analyzing the past that has a big role in shaping me to this point in my life, I give myself permission to feel fear, confusion, misunderstanding, doubt, and I never go to woulda, coulda, or shoulda. No revisiting
past choices, they are history, finished and gone with my descending colon.

I’ve had a hard knock life, but no more than most others. Everyone is a unique soul. Do I get angry, you betcha I do. But, it is in the moment only, and all I have to do is say to myself, “okay, what is the issue right now”, then I work it out.

I create my own purpose. I guess I also have a destiny and I work at trying to connect
with it. Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.”

Knowledge of my upbringing and my past has had its causes and effects. I do not forget the lessons of my life, but for me, they are nothing without applying some imagination to turn them into something useful. This approach unlocks and opens doors.

I haven’t found myself, instead I am something I am creating. I have stopped chasing down and fleeing from my past. I have stopped the search of who I am. Instead I have decided to feel, create, imagine and enhance my awareness of the little things and the big ones.

I notice the breeze on my wrist as I stroll. I hear the tinkle of someone’s wind chimes as I walk by. When the heavy duty life crap happens, whatever has happened, I learn from it, build on it, and move on with my life. I can’t change what happened, I can only change how I deal with it.

In everyone’s life some things that have happened were planned. Sometimes life takes a different path than planned, at one point or another. In my case, the crucible was the moment I said good bye as I was wheeled into the operating room. I was in my 50’s at the time, and sometimes a story told is better when we start in the middle.

As I heal and recover, I see, hear and feel everything for what might be the first time. Good and bad of life is like the dawn and about the dawn, the time when the fingers of light reach out from the dark. The sun is touching me, the ground I stand on, and then the world that surrounds me as I experience my bonus theatre of life.

My approach to myself and my life before and after the crucible of the bag are neither right nor are they wrong. The crucible and so, the ostomy bag was a severe trial causing many different elements of myself and life to interact. All of which have led to my self and my life to be a new and consistently evolving creation. My new approach to life has aroused and inspired my imagination to take the mystical leap over the abyss between life and death, and I landed on another timeline. My spirit is unleashed and I can celebrate the good and the bad until I once again arrive at the point of no return and I must trade in my ostomy bag for a body bag.

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

Ostomate

“Everyone you meet has a story to tell”

jo-annltremblay.com

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”

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