Friends Are Better Than Therapy

We left our home in the cold north last November to spend the winter in the warm sunny south. It was at this time we also left our friends behind. We arrived at our

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Photographer: Jo-Ann L. Tremblay 

winter home in a community where we knew only a few people, it could have been lonely, but as it turns out this is not the case.

We have become members of a neighbourhood with a true sense of community. There is no doubt the setting is well kept and beautiful, and our little home is nestled on the banks of a canal filled with fish, waterfowl, and the occasional alligator. But the natural beauty is only part of the joy, it is the people who pull it altogether.

In the mornings when I take a walk, everyone I meet along the way, greet one another with a smile and a wave. If someone needs a helping hand, there is a line up of folks ready to give of themselves. In the afternoon when I wander down to the bay, people exercising their dogs, people fishing, and folks like me simply enjoying the day, catch up with the latest news. Our community friends are our pals and buddies.

We all have different lifestyles, have come from different places, we follow separate paths, thoughts and memories, yet the feeling of fellowship with each other is powerful indeed.

A short while ago I met a new friend who is a fellow ostomate. She is new at this life altering living and we spent an afternoon sharing our experiences and knowledge gained. At the end of our delightful afternoon we decided to organize a “ladies night out”. Within a  few weeks through word of mouth, we decided to go to the Crab House Restaurant within walking distance from our community, and off we went. With laughs, giggles, great conversations, sharing pictures and more, we who are ostomates and our non-ostomate friends shared a wonderful evening of food, drink, merriment and camaraderie.

Communities come in all shapes and sizes, and they come together for different reasons. We humans are social and when we share a feeling of community with others we are drawn together in fellowship regardless of age, race, colour and creed. Together no matter our personal circumstances, challenges and triumphs, we receive and express support, balance, harmony and joy with our community of humanity and our world.

In our book of life the next page is blank. As we greet the new day a page is turned, and we fill that page with our life happenings. The people who share the day with us sit at the heart of our story. As always the language of the heart is eloquent.

Fellow ostomtes you are not alone, join an ostomy support group, become a member of an ostomy social media group, connect with your ostomate and non-ostomate friends and neighbours. When you do this, you fill the pages of your life story with the joy of people, as you strive to live your life to the fullest, come what may.

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

Ostomate

“Everyone you meet has a story to tell”

Website: jo-annltremblay.com

 

 

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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.”

 

Oh My…Already?!

Time certainly flies! One year ago this month Percy and I created, “The Ostomy Factor” blog and published our first posting November 14, 2012 titled, “Chances Are”.

Our mission is to share the ostomates life, our times, ups, downs, and all arounds with ALL through humour and inspiration.

A lot of water has passed under the bridge, as we experienced the many adventures and misadventures life could throw at us in this past year. During this time, through amazon we indie-published our book, “Better With A Bag Than In A Bag”, December 2012. Since then, our real life compelling tale is now available in 8 countries worldwide, (United Kingdom, US, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and Japan), and is receiving 5 out of 5 star rated reviews. Folks with ostomies and folks who don’t have one have read the book, and the feedback has been more than complimentary. Through humour and inspiration readers are sharing their tears, laughter, stories and human spirit, with Percy, my husband Mark, and I. This has been a true gift for us.

For more information on the book look to the right of this post on the blog viewing window, click on the photo pic of me, and you’ll be linked to the youtube video that features the book trailer. Or, you can simply click http://youtu.be/gwrW4Xmfne4 in this posting to view it. Youngest step-daughter, actress Meredith Henderson, through the production company, SisbroandCompany, created the video. The music and lyrics featured in the video are written by step-son Noah, and performed by my hubby Mark and his children’s band, “Tangleroot”. Enjoy! Percy and I are thrilled with their creative and joyous support. Gosh, 2nd chances at life just keeps getting better and better.

Percy Stoma may have made history by being the first stoma to write blog posts, Percy posted the first stoma to stoma, and, stoma to human blog post December 2012. By this time Percy and I had also painted an oil painting on canvas titled, “Percy A Self Portrait”. You can enjoy the art piece every time you look at the cover of, “Better With A Bag Than In A Bag”. Stoma’s are often referred to as a rose bud. This is due to the fact that the end of the bowel extending externally from the abdomen (stoma), looks like a rose bud. If you find Percy homely in his actual orientation, flip the book upside down and you will see him as a beautiful rose bud.

What’s that? Oh yes, Percy would like you to know the oil painting will be traveling with us, and will be featured at our upcoming speaking engagements. As you can imagine Percy is rather shy and needs to have a bag over his head, and so, Percy is thrilled the painting is up on stage with us providing an opportunity to view him as a representative of one of many stomas around the world who are responsible with keeping their human alive.

Speaking of Percy, the little pungent pooper has quite the sense of humour. As the year moved on and each month progressed my parastomal hernia, a somewhat common complication for ostomates, grew. My abdominal profile which included Percy expanded, we eventually looked about 5 months pregnant on the abdominal left hand side, whilst the right side stayed normal. Not only was this risky health-wise, it also presented a fashion calamity. Percy in his immutable fashion took the opportunity to write the blog post, “Percy Gets A Dress”, see the January 28th, 2013 post, and enjoy a good chuckle.

We travelled the winter of 2013, and took the opportunity to visit Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. An inspired Percy embarked on celestial adventures, and he almost became a squished stoma as he was strapped into our seat during the Shuttle launch. See, “Percy Blasts Off”, February 22, 2013 blog post.

Interestingly, we as human beings have our gut feelings and we feel “butterflies” in the stomach. Underlying this sensation is an often-overlooked network of neurons lining our guts that is so extensive some scientists have nicknamed it our, “second brain”.

A deeper understanding of this mass of neural tissue, filled with important neurotransmitters, is revealing that it does not merely handle digestion or inflict the occasional nervous pang. The little brain in our innards, (no offence to the “little brain” reference is intended Percy), in connection with the big one in our skulls, partly determines our mental state and plays key roles in certain diseases throughout the body.

Although it’s influence is far-reaching, the second brain is not the seat of conscious thoughts or decision-making. Science tells us that the multitude of neurons in the enteric nervous system enables us to “feel” the inner world of our gut and it’s contents. This may explain Percy’s compassion when he took on the project of creating and writing the April 9th blog post, “A Bedtime Story”. Thanks Percy.

Our blog is reaching out to people all over the world, and many have taken the time to connect back with us. Larry in Jersey City, USA, wrote to us about, “Empathy”, which is shared in, “Fellowship of the Bag”, June 5th blog post. And, the phenomenal Lizzie who lives in Zimbabwe, Africa, inspired me, and in the spirit of connecting with our community of humanity for the purpose of touching and being touched, I posted, “Triumph Of The Human Spirit – Lizzie’s Story”, May 16th blog post, in her own words. Thank you Lizzie for your honesty, strength, and commitment to fellow ostomates.

During this past year Percy has settled down to the life of a stoma, pooping, passing wind, writing/ posting blogs, and keeping me alive. Percy’s reputation has grown steadily, and when we endured the 2nd major surgery in 2 years in March of 2013, Percy and I once again had to battle for our quality of life.

It has been another chapter in an amazing life journey, starting from the time leading up to the 2nd surgery, Percy’s DIVA moments while being wheeled into the operating theatre, the zoo, ahem…I mean hospital room and weirdest hospital stay I have ever experienced, our recovery, and our life after life adventures continue. Percy and I are busy writing our next book featuring this amazing journey, we’re calling it, “Better With A Bag Than In A Bag – The Sequel”, and we expect to publish in 2014. Percy and I will keep you posted.

At this time Percy and I would like to express our deepest gratitude to each and every one of you. It is our sincerest hope that you have enjoyed our adventures, learned a few things, had a few chuckles along the way, and have been inspired to take each day as it comes with optimism, in spite of it all. We look forward to continuing the adventures together with you over the next year ahead. Don’t forget to leave a comment, we love hearing from you.

All in all, it has been an amazing and at times challenging journey over the past year. I am an ostomate and Percy is a stoma, now we do almost everything I used to do before Percy’s creation, and we are able to enjoy everything in life we want to. I have hopes, dreams, and a strong desire to live a joyous and full life, in spite of it all. I was carved into a survivor, Percy keeps me alive, I have a 2nd chance at life – it’s the icing on the cake, and the cherry on top!

With Gratitude,

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.”