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.”

Vive la différence

The newest news about ostomates I’ve noticed, is the trend in breaking the taboo of ostomies and ostomy bags through posted photographic images.

Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are just a few of the social media being used by ostomates to show and share their colostomy, ileostomy, urostomy bags and scars.

They are young, middle-aged, elderly, male, female, and all of them are plucking up the courage to share themselves and their bags to wider and wider audiences.

I have heard some folks, (ostomates and non-ostomates) take offense to the photographic images, and I heard other folks cheering them on.

Aspiring model ostomate Bethany Townsend posted her image with Crohns and Colitis UK Facebook group with her story, and the photos went viral. (See more at: http://tiny.cc/6rofkx).

Then there’s male model Blake Beckford (33) from Stratford-upon-Avon, who suffered from ulcerative colitis, eventually his colon was removed and he has a permanent ileostomy. He had dreamed of becoming a fitness model before his 2003 diagnosis and after 10 years, he developed the confidence to pursue his ambitions, and he has landed a feature in Men’s Health Magazine. (See more at: http://tiny.cc/bwofkx)

These brave ostomates are working to make news as a way of getting ostomy attention, support, and for spreading awareness.

The tracks laid by ostomates everywhere is one of a trend that other industries are now climbing aboard and riding the vive la différence train. JC Penny for example is featuring disabled models in a recent campaign. The major retailer states they are committed to greater representation in the fashion industry, representing their diverse range of customers. To date I don’t believe they are featuring an ostomate, but who knows what next year will bring.

Then there’s Jessica Grossman, (24), of Ontario, Canada, who is a trailblazing campaigner for women with ostomies, inspiring them to embrace their ‘second chance at life’ through her initiatives. (See more at: Facebook – Uncover Ostomy).

Photo-based activities conducted by oneself or as part of an organized group or project is occurring in many forms of community settings, and are catalysts for political/social change and for community-strengthening. Ostomates sharing their images and stories shows to be an important step in allowing people to take pride in and ownership of their ostomy, building confidence and supporting their feelings of validation that they are being listened to and taken seriously.

In my understanding, the images I have seen represent a means to an end rather than an end itself, for the purpose of emphasizing their courage and well being rather than illness. They are sharing to engage in awareness, advocacy and possibly their own individual healing. The images provide opportunities for peer support, socializing with new people, (ostomates and non-ostomates), and personal support.

Sharing the ostomates realities is a way we can all be more understanding of one another, regardless of any differences we my have.

Percy and I feel this new and inspiring trend is an opportunity to send out a resounding cheer, “go ahead folks, be proud of who you are, you’re amazing, embrace your ostomy, inspire others, and keep spreading the awareness.

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

Ostomate

Everyone you meet has a story to tell”