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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HAPPY 150 BIRTHDAY CANADA, EH!

“It’s a party Jo-Ann!”

“It sure is Percy.”

Canada Goose

It’s going to be a heck of a party Saturday July 1st, 2017, our country is 150 years young. All 36,626,086 of us are celebrating. Our country is 99,984,663 km (3,855,100 sq. miles), in size. In fact, we’re the second largest country in the World, that means there is only 13.7 people per square kilometre. So, we have lots of room here for more people to invite to our party. Everyone is welcome to join in.

“Hey, Jo-Ann.”

“Yes Percy.”

“Let’s share a few fun facts with everyone about Canada.”

“Sure”

Well, talking about room for more party dudes and dudettes, Canada has fewer people than Tokyo’s metropolitan area.

Our money is just so fun. Each bill is colourful and there is Braille-like markings on them for the blind.

We love our doughnuts. Canadians consume the most doughnuts and has the most doughnut shops per capita of any country in the World.

Canada is an Iroquoian language word meaning, “village”.

Our official phone number is 1-800-0-canada, how fun is that!

We might feel a little light headed during the celebrations, and not just from the party cheer, large parts of Canada has less gravity than the rest of Earth, the phenomenon was discovered in the 1960’s.

We’ll have one heck of a street party, with 1,896 km, (1,178 miles), Yonge Street in the Province of Ontario, Canada, is the longest street in the World.

We’re a high flying people, in 2015, a Canadian man was arrested after tying more than 100 balloons to a garden chair and flying over the city of Calgary, in the Province of Alberta.

High flying balloon dude aside, we’re pretty smart cookies. Canada is the world’s most educated country, half of our residence have college degrees.

If your party ideas include a swim and some boating, Canada has more lakes than the rest of the world’s lakes combined.

We sure get a lot of mail in December. Every Christmas, 1 million letters are addressed to Santa Claus, he has his own postal code; ‘H0H 0H0, North Pole, Canada”.

We do hope you’ve enjoyed a few fun Canada facts. Both Percy and I wish Canada, all Canadians and everyone who can join us, a very happy, healthy and prosperous 150th birthday. And remember, if you’re in Churchill, in the Province of Manitoba, residence leave their cars unlocked to offer an escape for anyone who might encounter Polar Bears.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY CANADA, OUR TRUE NORTH STRONG AND FREE

 

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

Percy Stoma

“Everyone you meet has a story to tell.”

www.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

 

Of Miracles and Curses

“Bad luck, sometimes saves you from worst luck” – Winston Churchill

So what’s luck? Without regard to one’s will, intention, nor dejan-2016-blog-photo-cloudsserved result, luck is the success or failure apparently brought on by chance rather than through one’s own actions. In a descriptive sense, people speak of luck that they find to be fortunate or unfortunate, and maybe improbable.

Often when folks learn I am an ostomate, they shake their heads sadly from side to side, as they express how sorry they are to hear that. I’m sure all ostomates and any other person who has undergone a traumatic life event and/or alteration can relate to this reaction. Now on one hand I realize that they are being sympathetic and possibly empathetic, and that is generous of them.

On the other hand, for those of us who are living through and with an altered function it is truly about experiencing a new paradigm. Our patterns of habit and living are altered. Individually, we have become a new prototype. It’s a whole new ball game. There are many challenges, but the big one is; integrating by way of giving equal opportunity, consideration, and combining the old you with the current and future you.

Was it luck that brought us to a crisis and are we lucky enough to have survived?

The Romans believed in the embodiment of luck as the goddess Fortuna. Whereas philosophers believe that, “luck is mere luck”, rather than a property of a person or things. Carl Jung viewed luck as a synchronicity which he described as “a meaningful coincidence”. Some folks feel that there is no such thing as luck, change, or a coincidence, they believe “everything is connected”.

Was it a miracle some of us survived?

Informally, the word “miracle” is often used to characterize any beneficial event that is statistically unlikely but not contrary to the laws of nature, such as surviving a natural disaster, or simply a “wonderful occurrence”, regardless of likelihood such as a birth. Often such miracles might be survival of an illness diagnosed as terminal, or escaping a life threatening situation.

By choice or by chance, bad luck or good luck, miracle or curse, we endured a painful tragedy. By choice or by chance, bad luck or good luck, miracle or curse,
we survived to live another day. By choice or by chance, bad luck or good luck, miracle or curse, we have an altered body function and we beat the odds.

We can be grateful for another persons sympathy and empathy, while not feeling sad or cheated by life, it’s all a matter of our individual perspective. It is a question of what lens we are currently looking through. Even though we may feel we sure had some bad luck, we’re alive and now with a 2nd chance, we have the opportunity to experience more of life, worst luck was averted.

Live, love and laugh, in spite of the luck good and bad, why…because it’s fun!

Percy Stoma and I wish good luck to all, and keep enjoying your amazing life.

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

Ostomate

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