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

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A Secret Door

DoorBehind the thin decorative covering of our clothes and outward facade, there is a secret door. This door is the gateway to the fascinating world of our internal physical, emotional, intellectual and human spirit, our inner universe.

It just so happens we ostomates, have had a true life/death defying experience, and we have survived. This experience, and the creation of our secret door has impacted us in all ways possible. We will never be the same again.

During the time leading up to the creation of our secret door, we were ill, and this presented us with health issues that seriously affected our lives. Then, our secret door was created. We were impacted externally and internally, and our lives have been changed forever. When the door was opened we began a new chapter of our life story. A chapter that is often a physical, emotional, and social dichotomy of good and not so good, consequences.

In the years since I became an ostomate and through my Ostomy Canada Society volunteer responsibilities, ostomy support groups, social media forums, Ostomy Factor Blog and my website, so many people have shared their stories of personal experiences.

Through our shared stories we participate in camaraderie, experiences and understandings, that offer all of us clues to the inter-connectedness of all people, ostomate and non-ostomate alike. This is a source for food for thought, and of inspiration.

We share common experiences. Some of us are a parent, a friend, a co-worker, a child, a sister, a brother… We are part of a greater whole on this planet, and in this universe of universes.

As the events of our lives unfold, through the secret door, we internalize and we externalize. There are wondrous possibilities available in both the inside and on the outside. We can take the opportunity to incorporate these potentials in our everyday lives.

Life in reality for everyone is complex, and filled with events, issues, and perceptions. There are no simple or all encompassing solutions. Yet, as ostomates through our physical secret door, we have been gifted with not only continued survival, but with a symbolic representation of a gateway to life’s quantity and quality of life.

Behind the thin decorative coverings, there is a secret door. It is the opening created to give us a new way to eliminate what no longer serves us. It is the threshold to boundless energy, potential, and possibility, all of which we can use for expressing our unique individuality, as we navigate through our 2nd chance at life.

We can perceive the door as closed, and so, we become limited and prevented. Or, we can perceive the door as the opening to potential and possibility. Each of us faces a choice, we hold the key. We can turn back and be defeated by this barrier, or we can push on and step forward into the wondrously something new.

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.

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.

 

Through The Eyes of Others

Version 2Many years ago I suffered the unbearable pain of losing my son. We buried him, and he is now my forever memory. Fourteen years ago after thirty years of marriage, I buried my late husband. In 2011 after a lengthy illness I lay on an operating table, clinging to life. My life was saved and my ostomy, “Percy” was created. As I sit here today, I know I’ve had a lot of experience with major life challenges. And, each time I was compelled to create a “new normal” for myself and my life.

I did not do this alone. There were friends, family, and even strangers who were there as I journeyed to my new normal. Some of the people experiences were negative, and others were positive. Each negative and positive experience played an empowering role for me. My attitude has always been: even amidst a negative, there is always something good, although I may have to look deep and hard for it. Each experience was an instigating factor for spurring me on. I still wish the negatives didn’t happen, yet in spite of myself they were a part of the journey. Life is short, life is precious, and it is the people who profoundly affect our very being and experiences.

Every negative and positive person from the stranger in the store who was rude to us, the generous neighbour who dropped off some homemade jam for our enjoyment, to the child who lights up our heart, each person affects us on all levels. This fact of life for us as human beings, as individuals, and as a group, came to mind for me again this past weekend.

A friend of ours turned 40. His life partner organized a surprise birthday party at their favourite restaurant. When he walked into the room filled with family and friends, the expression on his face was priceless. He had no idea. The rest of the evening was filled with good laughs, special people, and delicious food. He enjoyed the celebration of him, and as he observed the folk in the room, he was reminded as to how special he is to them. I sensed the spark of his aliveness as his glow danced, merged, and became part of the greater aliveness of the room.

Each one of us individually and along with everyone, whether they are family, friends, or strangers, all have an affect on each other. We affect one another through the way we interpret life, and where we perceive our place to be in it. This is the foundation that supports how we live our lives, solve our problems, and how we treat one another. Each of us has our own life story that we blend and integrate into the life story of others. Like a plot within a plot, a circle within a circle, on the grand scale of life, our emerging stories enrich or impoverish us, and those who share in our life.

Since the party, our friend has expressed his gratitude, and the joy that his loving partner would organize such a special occasion to honour him. He is delightfully surprised that so many friends and family enthusiastically participated in the celebration.

As we live each ordinary day, and when we endure significant emotional events due to one reason or another, we are not alone. We journey forward on our personal life path come what may, as the community of friends, family, and strangers join us. We are connected to each other, and we affect one another through our thoughts, behaviours, and actions. Each of us has a story. It’s the narrative of us, our experiences, and the people who by choice and by chance, are part of the experiences. It’s a tale of the amazing you. May your life be filled as you touch the lives of others, and you are touched by them.

Authored by:

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

Ostomate

“Everyone you meet has a story to tell.”

Are you interested in reprinting or republishing this blog? With your written request, be our guest. We want to help connect people with 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.

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

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.