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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YIPPEE KI YAY

Happy Stomaversary to us! But for the intervention of our wonderful Canadian medical Version 2system I would not “Die Hard” – yippee ki yay. It’s our 6th year together. Percy Stoma you’re my awesome ostomy. I fought the good fight through the illness that brought me to the brink, then during the life saving surgery you were created. Together we’ve continued to battle, cope, and thrive.

We’re lifetime partners you and I, and we will continue to work hard to make life as fantastic as possible in spite of it all, as we live life to the fullest.

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MY LITTLE STOMA BUDDY!

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay – Ostomate

Percy Stoma

“Everyone you meet has a story to tell”

www.jo-annltremblay.com

 

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

Respite Bamboozle

About three weeks ago Jo-Ann my ostomate got wishfunked. That’s my new word, it Spider webmeans Jo-Ann’s periodic desire to indulge in wishful thinking ran out of steam when a stone cold reality was tossed back into her life, literally and figuratively, and the ripple effect was both emotionally and physically profound.

Let’s start at the beginning. Many folks who have endured a lengthy illness, have gone through treatment, through the challenges of recovery, and in the case of an ostomate, there is now body function alterations created through major surgery. Then, there is the physical and emotional adaptation to an altered body that requires constant vigilance and ostomy equipment attached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, month after month, year upon year. Well, we just can’t blame a person for indulging in periodic wishful thinking. It’s a much needed “respite bamboozle”, that calms the mind and soothes the soul.

That’s where Jo-Ann’s head and soul was when the pain started on the Saturday night. The abdominal discomfort intensified and the only position that somewhat relieved the pressure was the yoga “downward-facing dog bow” position. Jo-Ann is not a yoga practitioner, but through flipping and flopping from one position to another on the couch to find some degree of relief, she found if she went on her knees and laid the top part of her body down, and with her posterior up in the air, she could at least relieve some of the pressure and discomfort.

Hmm…what was causing all of this discomfort? Jo-Ann immediately began to be concerned about me her trusty and may I add amazing stoma. Her mind raced hither and thither to all the bad news potentials that could be occurring in her abdomen, and as we know there can be many.

After a few hours of her doggy bowing, the good news was the pressure lessened and she felt a degree of relief, enough relief to be able to go to bed and sleep for the night. Upon waking up the following morning, while not feeling her usual self, she did feel much better than the night before. That is until 7:00 p.m. that Sunday evening. The discomfort became so intense, even the yoga pooch position no longer helped.

The wishful thoughts that this too shall pass evaporated, and it was time to head off to hospital. It was midnight and Jo-Ann felt the full impact of being wishfunked.

The Doctor and nurses were terrific and professional as they worked hard to figure out what the source of the problem was. After intravenous, pain management, a CT Scan, and expert diagnostic application, the culprit was found. It was a kidney stone. The good news was the medical situation was not caused by me. The bad news, there is a stone, it is lodged in a most inconvenient spot, and Jo-Ann was going to be in a lot of pain until the offending stone moves. The good news is, it’s a stone and not one of the myriad of other abdominal, bowel or stoma complications. The bad news is, it’s a stone, it is painful, and it’s a stone on the move.

The good news is, the stone has moved to a more comfortable position now. The bad news is, it was not passed. There will be another dog bowing day sometime in the future when the stone resumes its journey. The good news-bad news, is life’s stress test!

As life would have it, Jo-Ann was exploring a social media site this morning, she read the following and thought you’d enjoy reading it was well.

 

While On This Ride Called Life

You have to take the good with the bad,

smile when you’re sad,

love what you’ve got and

remember what you had.

Always forgive, but never forget.

Learn from your mistakes, but never regret.

People change.

Things go wrong.

Just remember, the ride goes on.

 

Percy Stoma

Eol. Poopology
www.jo-annltremblay.com

“Everyone you meet has a story to tell.”

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