Sweet Words

“NO CANCER”, said the Doctor. A thumbs up, (and a few tears), between my husband andClose up seagull:clouds I as we marked this delicious moment in time. The results of the multiple biopsies and surgery is definitive, how sweet it is. In that instant a 1000 pounds of weight lifted off of our shoulders, and I felt the crispness of my soul. It’s the first day of the rest of my life, again…

My healing is humming along nicely. I’m marching to the beat of the recovery drum, and my spirit is soaring.

I would like to extend a thank you to all of you. You gave us your prayers, words of encouragement, generous offers, and actions of support throughout this challenging time.

THANK YOU, WE ARE IN GRATITUDE

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“Cut It Out!”

Once again we’ve pulled into the hospital parking lot. The grey and stone sanctuary of Intervenusthe ill is looming ahead of us. The enemy is inside and its time to cut it out! Pondering over the past several months, I must admit, it’s been a summer of stress, joy, adventure, passion, and worry. Aestas horribilis.

Looking back, it was in July that I attended my annual mammogram at this same hospital. I am already a survivor, for 40 years I have sat on pins and needles after each mammogram, only to be delighted at the sound of a wonderful voice say, “All Clear”. This time would be different, the phone rang and the dreaded, “Call Back”, seemed to screech into my ear. As July progressed I attended a 2nd mammogram appointment. Then, there was an ultra sound, and yes, two masses were confirmed. A biopsy followed. August I attended my follow-up appointment with the Doctor. At this time I was told surgery was required.

It’s now September and so, here we are once again moving along the concrete walkway leading to the sliding doors. As I held my husband Mark’s hand, I noticed the windows reflected a brilliant rising sun. Was this an omen of things to come?

Preparing for surgery, I was compassionately cared for by the hospital staff. I was then wheeled into the operating theatre. On the stage of this cold and stark theatre humming with the sounds of monitoring machines was a team of professionals moving about collaboratively performing with purpose. They were the stars of the show, I was their audience. During my drug induced slumber the, “Cut It Out” climax came and went. Although a daunting experience for me, I accepted what we were all here in the theatre to do.

I have battle wounds. They are my badges of survival. This new scar is horrifying and delightful. I can once again delight in the joy of seeing another brilliant sunrise, horrified for the upcoming biopsy results I’m expecting in October. Delighted that I again have the chance to laugh, joke, and cause mischief.

Words are powerful tools, Words have the power to tear down or build people up. Thank you to all of you who expressed loving thoughts through your words of encouragement. Your heartfelt messages of support have sustained me throughout my recovery.

I am in gratitude!

Bouquet of Flowers

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

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.

It’s Our Stomaversary

Tunnel of LightIts time to celebrate and to reflect. The journey on the gurney began 7 years ago today. I had an estimated 1 hour to live. As I laid in pain and I wondered if my body was beyond fair repair, I could have just let go and stepped gentle unto death. If I could, I would have just gathered myself and flee. Flee to the mystical void.

But I couldn’t. And so, my thoughts turned purely for the sake of survival.  Although daunting with no guarantee, I rejected failure. Failure was no longer an option in this game to survive. I knew in those moments this decision would not be easy.

I embarked on the white-knuckle challenge. Together with my winning team, consisting of me, my doctors, the nurses, and my beloved husband Mark, survival became our only goal. Although I didn’t fully know what was at stake, I decided I would find a way to heal.

During the almost 8 hour marathon surgery, my amazing stoma buddy Percy was created. In those moments I became an ostomate, and I now sport my permanent ostomy with joy and pride.

The passing years since certainly have left their marks on Percy and I, with wounds and scars. There have been and will be, the feelings that storms with the destructive elements of fire and water, will continue to claw at us with the ongoing realities all ostomates must endure daily, monthly, and yearly.

And yet, this is our sequel. Our second chance at life. We are survivors. We carry on. We have brushed ourselves off and we hold our heads high.

Without fail, every year on that special stomaversary day, we celebrate and reflect once again. Happy Stomaversary Percy Stoma. Thank you for my continued survival. Our goal has been achieved. We are successful!

Happy Stomaversary to you too Jo-Ann. Life goes on, and so are we!

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 o 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.

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.

IMG_0342

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.

 

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.

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.