Earth to Jo-Ann…Come In Jo-Ann

It’s March 12th and we’re so excited. It’s 10:34 p.m., we’re situated along Florida’s Space Coast, (east side of the state on the Atlantic Ocean, 74 kilometres [46 miles], south of Cape Canaveral). The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket is at the Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and is ready for take-off. It’s the 4th rocket launch since we arrived here on January 1st.Kennedy Space Centre

During the 10 minute countdown to lift off, my imagination kicks in and it brings me back to our home up north, t
o our bedroom, and to the large photograph hanging over the headboard. It is the now famous photo of planet Earth taken on December 7, 1972, by the crew of the Apollo 17 spacecraft, at a distance of about 45,000 kilometres (28,000 mi) from earth, titled, The Blue Marble, that I purchased sometime in the 1980’s at Kennedy Space Centre.

I bought this photo then because I love our home planet. I find myself often, sitting on my bed and losing myself in the magnificent beauty of our planet. I contemplate our blue jewel suspended in the velvety blackness. I marvel at our fragile sphere.

I think back to 1992 when Roberta Bondar, Canada’s first female astronaut boarded the space shuttle Discovery, and broke the mould. I recall an interview upon her return from space, she remarked that she had looked out of the window of the shuttle and was struck by all the empty space around our planet. That we’re alone in our part of the universe, she pointed out that it’s the only home we have right now, and we need to take care of it.

Earth looks peaceful and harmonious from space, but of course all is not as it appears. Conflicts threaten our very survival. Weapons are poised, ready to annihilate life as we know it at a moments notice; environmental crisis is lurking, and conflicts that are rooted in antiquity abound. Human destiny is unclear, the veneer of civilization is yet exceedingly thin, and our current actions bring sustainability into question.

Oh my, the glow of what looks like the dawn of a new day, fully illuminates the horizon to the north of us. It’s 10:44 p.m., and we have lift off. Within seconds a large fire ball climbs through the inky black sky. WOW! The rocket has a quartet payload of what is called Magnetospheric Multi-Scale (MMS) spacecraft, which is the first space mission dedicated to the study of magnetic reconnection. My own very basic understanding of magnetic reconnection is that it is a fundamental process that occurs throughout the universe where magnetic fields connect and disconnect with an explosive release of energy. Magnetic reconnection is one of the most important drivers of space weather events, such as eruptive solar flares.

It’s amazing to think the journey it took human-kind to arrive at a day where representatives of earth can leave our home planet, not knowing what they will find.

Arriving back to our Florida condo after witnessing the spectacular liftoff I am in awe as I think of humanity’s epic journey out of Africa, the cradle of humanity, to eventually populate the earth. We are a species of brave pioneers and adaptive innovators.

I’ve lived most of my life so far in the 20th century. Those of us who have lived during this time in our planetary history have witnessed the extraordinary miracles and folly of humankind first hand. Ours has been a century of demystifying, human-made miracles and human-made catastrophe.

My mother who is only 22 years older than I, lives with the effects of a world evolved from the dim years of the Great Depression to World War 11, and she witnessed the incandescent Nuclear Age.

Progress has been swift for the most part and severe. I have lived through the silent war that was never overtly fought, (Cold War). Watched as humans fought over ideology, and are engaged in an era of organized global terrorism, the likes of which has never before been experienced.

In this age of miracles such as; The Human Genome Project and gene therapy, Pandemic Planning and Coordination of Response, creation of life saving and life sustaining ostomies. The Human Brain Project, an international team of researchers led by German and Canadian scientists have produced a three-dimensional atlas of the brain that has 50 times the resolution of previous maps. Microscale 3-D Printing. And, the list goes on. In my lifetime I have seen the horse drawn ice wagon, delivering ice to my neighbours in a time when not all folks had a refrigerator. And then, just a few years ago my life was saved and extended by the technology of modern medicine, and the skills of medical practitioners.

I have lived momentous days, extraordinary in the ability of people to coordinate their minds and skills to ensure the continuation of humanity’s journey and our own individual journeys. The little blue speck in the midst of the vast emptiness that is dotted by luminous celestial bodies is our home, and this ostomate is honoured to be graced with an extended life and the opportunity to live life to the fullest on this beautiful blue marble.

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

Ostomate

“Everyone you meet has a story to tell.”

Percy’s Gift

“You’re not a miracle”, stated my ear, nose and throat specialist, while I sat in his office.

He wrinkled his nose, viewed my current auditory test results, picked up and viewed my previous test result records, and then looked me in the eye.

“It sometimes happens, we don’t always know why”, he stated. Then he bowed his head, wrinkled his nose, and continued to view and compare the past and current records. Hmmm…, was the only thought to cross my mind in that moment. Once again, he looked at me straight in the eyes, with what I thought was a strange expression on his face.

Well that was it, I began to feel weak in the stomach. Little Percy Stoma reacted, and left a little deposit in his bag. My thoughts then raced around in circles. Oh geez, the other shoe has dropped. Oh no, just when I’m starting to get some of my stamina back. What an odd nose he’s got.

“I’m ordering  an MRI, (Magnetic Resonance Imagining), of your ears and head,” he went on to say.

Whooo’nelly, was the only focused thought I had left in my head.

“Okay Doctor, what’s going on, what are we talking about here, is there something wrong with my ear, my head, what gives?” I managed to get past my lips.

“Oh sorry, yes well, the auditory test results as compared to your previous records are indicating you are actually registering some sounds from your left ear,” he finally explained.

At this point I was unable to think or talk yet again for a number of seconds, and I do believe Percy once again made a nervous bag deposit.

This statement is nothing short of a miracle for me, although the Doctor has assured me that I’m not a miracle. You see, I have been profoundly deaf in my left ear since birth!

Hearing loss is the reduced ability to hear sound. Deafness is the complete inability to hear sound. There are many different conditions that lead to partial and total deafness. In my case it’s genetics. Several family members have sensorineural deafness. Basically the vestibulocochlear nerve, (auditory vestibular nerve), known as the eighth cranial nerve, transmits sound and equilibrium (balance) information from the inner ear to the brain. I have a nerve disorder, and so, nerve pathways in the brain that normally transmit sound impulses, do not work for me.

At birth and for most of my life the right ear has been high functioning. I’ve heard very well. But, due to the aging process my right ear hearing has degraded and now functions at a moderate hearing level. About 8 years ago I was fitted with a hearing aid in my right ear only, as it’s my only hearing ear, and it has been working as well as can be expected.

“As I mentioned Jo-Ann, this kind of thing happens from time to time, and we often don’t always understand why,” he stated. “You’ll have the MRI appointment within a couple of weeks, this is simply to rule out any abnormal changes, and to give us a clear image of your inner ear,” he assured me.

My mind started to race. How amazing, deaf since birth, and now later in life I have gained some ear function. To what extent, time, some hearing device equipment and experimental approaches will reveal. I do not at this time recognize sound from my left ear.

Although there may be any number of reasons for how this has happened, I have my theory, and it goes back 2 years and 5 months ago. I was fighting for my life, as Doctors performed extensive, invasive surgery, and Percy’s creation. My disease and the life saving surgery caused almost catastrophic damage to some organs, my bowel system, bladder and so on. Ultimately nerves were also damaged.

I have experienced a myriad of health issues and degraded bodily functions as a direct result of the nerve damage. I have been so fortunate to have had a legion of medical experts from physicians, to, physio therapists working with me these past couple of years. They have worked hard to assist me in gaining as much function and physical feeling to my body parts as possible. Each are incredibly skilled medical professionals with regard to their diagnosis, effective treatment, and good science. I have made great gains, and I am grateful.

But, it’s not all up to them, I have a huge part to play in my recovery. In the beginning I decided that one of my healing focuses would be my nerve system, and so, I began to visualize my nerves. I saw them in my mind’s eye as vibrant and glowing roots of trees, and branches of bushes.

As I built on this vision I imagined the roots and branches growing and connecting. Within the past few months I have regained full bladder function, and I no longer manifest, “drop foot”, just to mention a couple of the gains.

And now, it is becoming apparent that I am also gaining some degree of audio function, that I’ve never experienced in my life to this point. Frankly, as I flipped my eyes inward to my internal universe, from the beginning I had no idea if my visualization would manifest any results. My primary motivation was simply to increase my sense of control and well-being. My second motivation was to support healing, the regeneration of nerves, and the building of new nerve bridges where required. The mind-body connection has boundaries no doubt, but to what extent? As it turns out, who knows, it’s an individual thing. I never imagined that my mind-body journey would bring me to the potential opening of new doors of hearing I’ve never experienced for more than 5 decades of my life.

The sound world of bird songs, rustling leaves, waves lapping on the beach, the little giggles of grandchildren, and…and…and…, may very well be Percy’s gift to me. Sounds I have heard faintly or in theory only, will be music to my ears. The odyssey leading up to Percy’s creation, and my ongoing healing process is the gift that keeps giving.

James Gordon, MD, pioneer in Integrative Medicine, states the mind and body are essentially inseparable.  “The brain and peripheral nervous system, the endocrine and immune systems, and indeed all the organs of our body and all the emotional responses we have, share a common chemical language and are constantly communicating with one another,” states Dr. Gordon.

I gather in my case, my mind didn’t distinguish the difference between nerves in my abdomen, spine, nor head. It just went ahead and affected my whole body of nerves. It all began with Percy, and caused me to use my thoughts to positively influence some of my body’s physical responses. In the process, I believe, I minimized the negative effects and maximized the healthy, healing aspects of my mind-body connection.

In the spring of 2014, the specialist will outfit me with hearing aids for BOTH ears. I will work with the equipment and the audiologist for a number of months, and who knows how much of the amazing world of sound will open up for me. Thank you Percy.

Percy and I wish everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous 2014.

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

Ostomate

“Everyone you meet has a story to tell.”

 

The Case Of The Raging Toilet

An ostomates life can seem a bit silly at times, especially when we have to leave treasures all over our community. Percy and I went out to run a number of errands the other morning. Percy (my enigmatic spirited stoma), decided to overact as I drove the car to the Passport Office. As we traveled each kilometer after another, well, what can I say, instead of our cup runneth over, our bag was just about there and it seemed to me, we hit every red light cosmically possible.

Finally we arrived at our destination with not more than a moment to spare. First stop, was to the bathroom to take care of Percy’s business, before we addressed my business. Up one hall, nope no bathroom, down another hall, nope no bathroom. With frankly no time left, I found a commissionaire, who gave me directions. “Oh, for Pete’s sake, I must have passed it at least twice”.

With a great deal of relief I dealt with Percy, and to make life easy and efficient for me, I simply went into my “Percy’s spare equipment stash”, that I keep in my purse for a fresh bag, and deposited Percy’s old treasure bag well packaged into the washroom trashcan.

With everything in order it was now time to go back down the hall to the Passport office. When this task was completed it was time to head off to the grocery store. As the life of an ostomate would have it, Percy once again thought this was quite exciting, as I suddenly became aware of number two of the final act of digestion quickly filling Percy’s bag. Upon arriving at the grocery store, it was off to the washroom, we headed. I changed once again to a new bag, and deposited Percy’s not so old treasure bag in the trashcan.

Groceries purchased, it was off to our final stop – the Pharmacy. Wouldn’t you know it, Percy wasn’t finished yet, silly little pooper. Well, history had to repeat itself. It was straight home from there, and I wearily stepped through the door. From the moment I entered all was quiet, nothing was moving, not even a mouse.

Figuring that with 1 bag, 2 bags, 3 bags I had already filled and almost overflowed, I thought all would be quiet and uneventful for the evening. Hmm….best laid plans of mice and men. Before I go on with the story, know that the whole ordeal has worked out well, and my husband has seen his Physician. Now back to the case of raging toilet.

Our day had not ended, at 11:30 p.m. it was off to the Emergency Care Unit of our local hospital for a medical issue for my husband Mark. By 1:00 a.m., pungent Percy (stoma), kicked into high gear yet again. The toilet facility was adjacent to Mark’s room. I went in to deal with Percy, all went well, until I flushed the toilet. Well, a tornadic fury began, then a counterclockwise rotation of speed and noise I have never witnessed before in the water closet raged, and would not stop. Around, around and around, like a tempest in a tea pot it raged. Then as I danced about jiggling the toilet handle in an attempt to stop the torrent, a small geyser erupted in the middle of the rotation, and a fine spray of water filled the air above the toilet, and a mist began to fill the area.

It was at this time I escaped the washroom as a nurse heard the roar of the toilet, and came over to the door to peer in with me. No sooner had he witnessed the raging toilet, it began to slow down and it eventually stopped. It had stopped as mysteriously as it had started. He then turned to me and said, “well, that must have been some log you deposited”.

 

 

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

 

“Everyone one you meet has a story to tell.”

 

Fellowship Of The Bag

“To Know the Road Ahead…Ask Those Coming Back”- Chinese Proverb

In the beginning when I was created in 2011, Jo-Ann and I felt very much in isolation. We lamented as we experienced a profound lack of fellowship in that present time, and extending into our future. Beyond the pain Jo-Ann felt throughout her body as she recovered from the disease that preceded my creation and my creation surgery itself, I sensed another pain inside. We were alone, an isolated island stranded in a void of empty space. We were grasping for threads of knowledge, understanding, and a sense of community.

Everyone we knew eliminated in the way nature designed them to. We were different now, what nature intended no longer existed for us. I am destined to have a bag over me, the buck stops here. At that time, we felt we were sailors in the midst of a shipwreck.

I did my best to keep us moving, (so to speak), being as adventurous and humorous as I could be, considering it was the early days. We had many ostomy questions that no one in our circle of family nor friends could answer. We were experiencing physical/emotional issues and feelings, that no one could relate to.

We had wonderful friends, family, and a legion of medical experts surrounding us who were concerned. So many in the most precious of ways, reached out and reacted from their perception that we were in distress, and so, in need of them. They extended loving and caring words and gestures stemming from their concern for our well-being. Others pitied us, and still others just didn’t know what to say or do. We thank all of them, and hold them dear in Jo-Ann’s heart. But, for us something was missing. We were not normal anymore, we were on the journey to a new normal. There were no road maps, nor fellow ostomate travelers on the path. As we reached out to those around us, we still felt in need. We were rich in sympathy from others, we were surrounded by care and concern, yet, we felt alone on the road.

Step by step, Jo-Ann began to take control of my ostomy care. Then, one day she noticed a grapefruit sized bulge under me. What was it? What was wrong with me? We were frightened of what it might be! Jo-Ann started making phone calls to the surgeon, family doctor, and home care nurses. Although we did not feel physically different than the day before, we were terribly frightened as to what the bulge might mean. Desperate for some understanding, Jo-Ann searched the internet and found the phone number of our regions’ United Ostomy Association of Canada, (UOAC) – support group. The support groups have volunteers who are available to answer ostomy questions.

A gentleman called us back within an hour and helped put Jo-Ann’s mind at ease. This was our introduction to the cool dudes and dudettes of the UOAC. This volunteer-run charitable organization is dedicated to helping all persons, including families and caregivers, who are affected by ostomy surgery. We have learned so much from our connection with them, and the camaraderie is priceless. There are United Ostomy Associations worldwide.

It was at this time we found what we were missing, the reason why we felt so adrift, we needed empathy!

No matter your situation in life, whether you have a bowel disease, ride a motor cycle, are going through a divorce, you are an entrepreneur, battling cancer, or whatever life issue or situation is yours to experience, there are associations in your region. Everyone needs to know there are others out there with the ability to mutually experience the thoughts, emotions and direct experiences, as you. We are not alone. We are not an island. We are not adrift. In fact, all of us are surrounded by people who are just like us. These are people who understand what we are going through, because they have gone through it themselves. Empathy is a treasure we can all discover. As a community of humanity, we are in fact part of a far richer reality.

Percy Stoma

Eol. Poopology

Better With A Bag Than In A Bag”

This post was written due to memories sparked by an inspirational email sent to us by Larry in Jersey City, USA. Following is an excerpt from his email:

  E M P A T H Y

Empathy differs from sympathy. People in the medical,

nursing and healing professions can offer sympathy for a

patient’s disease or defect and the need for an ostomy.

The offering of empathy, though, can be done only by

ostomates; only they have the unique understanding

derived from experiencing a similar situation.

Without even a word, the sight of a vigorous individual

with an inconspicuous ostomy is testimony to the

acceptability of a stoma.

Beyond the reassuring appearance comes the shared

concerns and triumphs, solutions to problems, answers

to questions.

This exchange makes easy the rehabilitation of new

ostomates and is a source of enormous pleasure to

those who are reaching out to a fellow human being.

“To Know The Road Ahead . . Ask Those Coming Back!”

                                 The Ostomy Alliance

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