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


“Everyone 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