Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Ate my Tag : Changed my Bag

 Deer hunting in Northern Canada offers challenges: 
Finding deer, keeping warm, and changing an ostomy bag.

Damn Cold
I hunted 3 full days,

before sunrise to after sunset,

with temperatures of -29C
                              or -39C with the wind chill. 

That's -20F, or -38F with the wind chill.

My blind is well camoflaged, with narrow viewing windows. 

The secretary chair is it's only comfort. 

Freezing temperatures are OK when walking, but when sitting still all day long, it's VERY cold.

wore layers of top-quality clothes of merino wool, primaloft, and goose-down.
But eventally my body chilled

With lots of idle time to think, I found it interesting to feel the heat leave my feet, then my hands, then my legs, then arms.  When my core started cooling, it was time to climb down from the blind and do some jumping-jacks to get the circulation working and to generate body-heat.

Changed my Bag
The many layers of warm clothes added difficulties to changing my ostomy bag.

To get to my bag, I would have to unzip 3 layers of pants.  And to be able to see what I was doing, I would also have to unzip 3 layers of coats.  This is difficult to do with cold fingers.  And it's also a serious risk to an already chilled body core.

I did this operation once, but was determined to avoid doing it again.
Sorry for no picture, but my fingers were too cold to use the camera :)

So I listened to my body, to remind myself of what most ostomates know ...

  • 80% of stool volume happens within 2 hours of waking.  So I got up earlier, and changed my bag before getting dressed for warmth.
  • reduced fluid consumption, trading minor dehydration for reduced pass-through
  • avoided eating high-roughage foods that create higher-volume output (vegetables & breads)
  • avoided eating gassy foods (onions, broccholi, seafood)
With these adjustments, I was able to avoid future bag changes during those nasty cold days.

Ate my Tag
Over the season I saw hundreds of deer, and enjoyed the thrill of being close to them without them even knowing I was there. 

I had 2 licenses for MuleDeer does, but didn't shoot. 

Hence the expression 'I Ate my Tag' or 'Ate tag soup'.

With an automatic trail-camera, I captured 1000s of pictures of deer. Here are a few of my favourites.

I was looking for a big buck and not willing to shoot any deer unless it was one of the top 3 that I saw from the trail-camera.  Of course I saw way more deer from the trail-camera which is there 24x7, than I did actually sitting during a few days.  Generally the big boys only show up at night, so I was patiently hunting deer that I had never seen, yet knew they were in the area.

On my last hunt-day, I took #3. 
I know that not everyone has the same appreciation for hunting
and I respect their opinions. 
But for me, it's a way of life and 2 families will enjoy venison this winter.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Dating With Baggage

Jennie David is a writer from Canada, a recent graduate of Boston University, and an ostomate.  Jennie is writing from her experience with a topic that is not often talked about.

Jenny is an active contributor to
Living Beyond With Guts 
The Gutsy Generation

This is Jennie's story, re-posted with her permission

Dating with Baggage
By Jennie David

I was sitting at the dining room table, across from a home health nurse, and my parents were talking in the kitchen down the hall. I was about 1.5 weeks out from my ostomy surgery, a little sore and tired, but finally out of the hospital and looking forward to starting my sophomore year of college. The nurse had been asking me about school and my friends, and then she leaned across the table, reached her hands out towards mine, lowered her voice and said, “And you know, you can still have a boyfriend and stuff.”

I remember smirking at her, nodding along, but the thought had been far from my mind. I hadn’t been thinking of dating and first kisses when I had decided to have surgery, and to be perfectly honest, had not thought twice about it. To use a phrase I have since heard, those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.

I recently met a mom of a girl who has Crohn’s and an ostomy, who is around my age in her early 20’s. This woman’s daughter is not completely comfortable with her ostomy, and she looked at me – her eyes squinted but slightly desperate – and asked if I’d had any experiences with boys or if I was nervous about it. For me – and many of us with ostomies – the pouch is merely a physical reminder of a disease that affected me long before my surgery and will continue to do so. In other words, even if I didn’t have an ostomy I would still have Crohn’s and would still have a chronic illness.

If dating and falling in love were like it is in the movies, all we would need would be a good-looking person, a well-written script, and a perfectly chosen song. But since we live in the real world, things are not so direct. My point is that we forget the complexities of dating and that it’s not just about finding another person, but finding the right person, and that is tricky ... illness or not. Of course it complicates matters to have to bring up serious medical realities in the early stages of getting to know someone, especially when our peer group may not have had the same intimate interactions with the medical world as we have.

And all of this was theory and conjecture watching from the sidelines until this past May. I had held a movie fundraiser to benefit a Crohn’s organization, and one of my good friends brought along a friend of hers who also went to school in Boston. I had met him before and he was very sweet, but did not know him well. A day or so after the event, he sent me an email asking me to dinner. Because I am incredibly naïve, I at first thought he was inviting me along to dinner with our mutual friend, but gently replied that he was in fact hoping to have dinner alone.

And so here was a college boy – adorable and smart – who, knowing that I had Crohn’s and an ostomy, had decided to ask me out. As I was headed to the restaurant in my carefully planned outfit, I thought about whether or not I should bring up my disease and my surgery. But then I decided this – he had asked me out – the Jennie who does research and wants to be a psychologist and who bakes cupcakes and loves the color purple. He did not ask my disease out. That is certainly a big part of my life between dealing with the medical aspects and advocacy work that I love, but at the same time it does not define me, and I have plenty of other things to talk about. We had the loveliest time talking and teasing one another, and when I eventually did make some reference to my ostomy on our second date, he didn’t even flinch.

In trying to do some ‘research’ on the subject, I once asked several of my close guy friends what they would think if they were dating someone who had an ostomy. Most of them replied that it wouldn’t matter (truth: it doesn’t matter), but one friend replied that it would make him “hesitate.” At first, his response frustrated me – hesitate, I thought, why would you hesitate? What makes me so different from any other girl? Ultimately I decided that not every person will fully get it, and their hesitation is a reflection on them, not my worthiness of being in a relationship.

I unfortunately don’t have foolproof advice or a line-up of certified girls and guys to offer up for dates. I do, however, firmly believe that there are amazing, understanding, empathetic people out there who will see you as the whole person you are. As it is for everyone, I think it’s about finding the right person. You cannot change the scars on your body, but you can choose the people (as friends or partners) who see those scars as testaments to your strength rather than as faults. Share what you are comfortable with when you are comfortable doing so, and remember that everyone has baggage in one form of the other, even if it’s not stuck to their sides.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

12 Facts About Me

I was tagged, and the prize/penalty was to share 12 random and generally unknown facts about myself. 

Here's my dozen ....

[1] At age 7, my brother and I played fishing in our back yard. 
I was the fisherman.  He was the fish.  He put the hook in his mouth.
To this day I don't know what possessed me, but I needed to 'set the hook'.  I leaned back, snapped the rod, and 2 barbed hooks went through his lower lip.

After a trip to the hospital to remove the barbed hooks, a brief family meeting concluded we had a lifetime ban on our fishing game.

[2] At age 8, I should have died on the freeway. 
On a family vacation in California we stopped at a roadside rest area for a picnic.  My mom told me to put something in the garbage can.
The can she saw was about 10 feet away.  
The can I saw was at the roadside rest area on the opposite side of the freeway, across 6 lanes of traffic.
I dodged vehicles traveling both ways, returning surprised to see the horror on her face as she realized I had innocently done exactly what she asked me to do.

[3] I was the first hockey player in my hometown to wear a helmet.  Fifty years ago, nobody wore a hockey helmet.  But I took a severe concussion while  playing hockey (with bleeding from both ears and both nostrils, and 5 days in a hospital). 

My dad bought me a helmet (made of felt and leather), and gave me a clear choice - wear the helmet or don't play hockey. 

With today's awareness of Concussions and Head Injuries from hockey and football, this seemed like an obvious solution - but at the time it was radical and I missed the hair flowing when skating with speed.  But within a few years, many players joined the helmet-on look.

[4] At age 11, I was fired as a baby-sitter.  My mom went out for just 15 minutes and I was to take care of my 3 younger siblings.
One sister drank a bottle of iodine, and my other sister burned concentric rings on her bare foot as she stepped on a hot burner on our counter-top stove. My brother was OK. 
Apparently a 1-out-of-3 success-rate did not meet the standards expected by my mom.

[5] At age 15-16, I had a palomino quarterhorse
I joined 4H, competed in all the gymkhana events, and rode in the musical ride as mentored by the RCMP officers stationed in our town.  In winter, I rode bareback and without a bridle - she was an amazing horse, responding to voice, hand and leg signals.  

[6] At age 16, I completed a full 26-mile marathon ... without training or preparation. I had moved from a small town to a big city, and on a whim thought it would be a fun outing.  I haven't run a marathon since.

[7] I worked as a driller & blaster (explosives expert) for 5 summers while a university student.  

In a nickel mine at Thompson Manitoba, 5800 feet (1 mile or 1.6Kms) underground.

Rough work, but I made 5 times the minimum wage that most students worked for.

[8] At age 59 I traded Cancer for a Colostomy.  It was a good trade.  

I had rectal bleeding for 2 years, and assuming it was only hemorrhoids, avoided and declined all medical examinations and tests.

Earlier detection with a colonoscopy may have 'saved my ass'.

[9] I have a connection and respect for ravens (highly intelligent birds that can live 70 years).  Every March, 2-3 ravens are hatched on a cliff easily visible from our cabin. We watch their growth until they learn to fly and join the adults.

I have left stale donuts and watched ravens carry 
them 1-at-a-time and hide them in trees (there is an intelligence to thinking of the future).  One smarter raven learned to put his beak thru a donut-hole then grab a second donut in his beak, and carry them 2-at-a-time! 
I have left ice-fishing rigs unattended, and ravens flew circles over our cabin, squawking persistently ... yes, it meant a fish was on the line, and the ravens got a meal!  
After harvesting a moose, I packed out the meat, left the carcass, and started to drive my boat the 8 kms back to our cabin.  A few, then 11, Ravens flocked together overhead and followed me home. As I sat on my dock, they flew 3 circles, in unison, over my head, then all flew back toward the moose carcass.  They would have food for a month ... was that a raven's thank-you salute?

[10] Social media is too fast for me.  

I am more comfortable canoeing or trekking
and without cellphone or internet access.

My lifetime favourite is Nepal.

[11] Hockey has been hard on my body. 
I made a quick count of injuries during 57 years of hockey ...
3 concussions requiring hospitalization, 
12 broken bones, 
3 shoulder separations, 
2 missing teeth, 
1 torn knee, 
and over 100 stitches.  

A colostomy hasn’t changed that style.

[12] My favourite quotation ...

Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave
safely in a well-preserved body, 

but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, 
shouting "Holy Shit ... What a Ride!"

Friday, November 8, 2013

Ostomate Carries Moose 6X

Moose hunting has been a long tradition for me -  before-ostomy  -AND-   after-ostomy.  
It's an annual opportunity to reconnect with the natural world and with primal instincts. 

Being solo enhances the experience.

Each morning for 8 consecutive days, I wake at 4:00am and eat a hearty breakfast.  Then travel by boat for 5 miles (8kms) in the dark. 

On clear nights the moon, stars, and northern lights (aurora borealis) are spectacular as there is absolutely NO light-pollution for at least 30 miles.  

I leave my boat on a shore, and paddle my canoe far up a creek.

Before first-light I arrive at my special hunting spot, and begin the long plaintiff call of a cow moose, hoping to draw in a bull-moose.  Each morning at daybreak, 4 ravens fly a long straight path to where I sit, circle overhead to check me out, then fly back to where they came from. Beavers have a house nearby and busily drag poplar/aspen branches for their winter food storage.  Large flocks of Canada Geese fly over in 'V' formation, with the lead bird breaking the wind for those behind it.

It is often foggy as the mist rises from the water and slowly follows downstream from the creek into the lake. At first light, my surroundings start to take shape - first the large trees, then the lowbush. At sunrise the silhouettes gain depth and that 'golden hour' rich colour loved by photographers.

Between cow-calls, I wait silently.  Patiently hoping for a bull-moose to respond.  After 8 days hunting and living solo, I really want to hear a bull-moose.  So many sounds can be imagined to be a bull-moose.  A beaver snapping a branch could be a moose.  A dozen ducks skuttling the water could be a moose crossing the creek. An owl hooting could be a moose.  The crashing sound of blinking frozen eyelashes could be a moose breaking branches far away.

On day 8, I did hear a bull-moose grunt from 2 lakes away.  I knew my backyard, and could hear the echoes from lake to hills to another lake.  He approached with aggressive grunting and breaking of branches - sure to impress the hot cow he was hearing.  I sat silently and moved only my eyeballs.  Eventually he showed at 80 yards and with a single shot he was down. We shared a moment of respect and giving thanks.

Then the work began. 

No quad, no truck, no mechanical gear, 
nobody to help.  

Just me, 
age 63, 
with an ostomy. 

Turning him on  
his back is a big effort.

Then I carried this moose (in pieces), myself, 6 times.
     [1] from where he fell to my canoe on the creek
     [2] from the canoe to my 14foot open aluminum boat on the lake
     [3] from the 14ft boat to my dock
     [4] from the dock to my hanging rack
     [5] from the rack to my big boat (which I loaded on a trailer, with moose on the floor)
     [6] from the big boat to the butcher shop

Really, I carried that moose 6 times!

That was a long hard day.  But I felt thankful and fulfilled as I watched the sunset at the end of that day.

I know that not everyone has the same appreciation for hunting, and I respect their opinions.
But for me, it's a way of life and 7 families will enjoy moose-meat this winter.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Bag 'em or Burn 'em ?

At our remote Cabin in Northern Canada, 
we have no regular toilet or sewage disposal system. 

What to do with used Ostomy pouches & flanges ? 

We do have the finest outhouse on the lake, 
but it's only used for 'natural composting'. 

The plastics on ostomy pouches and flanges 
would not compost for decades, 
so I needed to find another method of disposal.

Actually, our outhouse isn't really a convenient place for 'ostomy changes'.  I found our workbench attached to the woodshed is best.

  • It is outside so smells drift away. 
  • The bench is at the right height. 
  • And there is a special freedom about changing in wide open spaces!

I leave on the workbench a plastic pail containing toilet paper, disposal bags, and pouches. 
Everything I need, and all in one place.

But how to dispose of the full pouches? 
Digging a hole to bury them is impractical because it's all rock, and holes can't be dug. 

One option is to bag them.  Each day I leave a full pouch (sealed in a disposal bag) in my plastic pail ... along with my ostomy supplies. When I leave the cabin to return to the city, I just move the disposal bags into a large garbage bag, and drop it into a regular garbage container in the city. This method works fine, but I am cautious with handling and transporting.  It would be an unpleasant clean-up if the garbage bag broke.

A 1-week Collection                                                  Garbage Bag to Transport

Second option is to burn them.  Each day I just toss the disposal bag into the fire in our wood-burning stove. This may sound gross, but experience says it's very practical. 

  • There is no smell, as the chimney draws all smoke and gas upward and out the top of the cabin.
  • Bag contents dry and burn, and completely disappear within minutes.
  • And 'disposal' is complete every day ... avoiding a collection of bags to be transported home at the end of the trip.

Of course this method only works on days when we have a fire to heat the cabin.  On hot summer days we don't want the extra heat in the cabin, so I revert to the first option of bagging them (later to be burned at a campfire or in the wood-burning stove).

My easy conclusion, based on years of experience  ... Burn 'em

Monday, October 28, 2013

MARIONNETTE GASTRONAUTE GRATUITE pour tout enfant au Canada ayant une stomie

Qui sont les gastronautes?      
Les gastronautes sont des marionnettes ayant une stomie, créées afin d’aider les enfants ayant une stomie à comprendre et à se sentir à l’aise.

Au niveau mondial, plus de 4000 enfants ayant une stomie ont reçu leur propre gastronaute, afin de les aider à se remettre de la chirurgie et pour s’accoutumer à leur nouveau mode de vie avec la stomie.

Les infirmières et médecins qui travaillent avec les stomies utilisent les gastronautes afin d’expliquer aux enfants leur stomie ou la stomie d’un parent ou d’un grand-parent. 
D’autres gastronautes, comme Hogus, font des aventures avec un adulte ayant une stomie et partagent ce qu’ils apprennent avec les enfants à travers le monde ayant une stomie.  Ils démontrent à ces enfants qu’ils ne sont pas seuls et qu’ils peuvent mener des vies ordinaires (même extraordinaires).


Pour un enfant ayant une stomie … Voir la liste ci-dessous pour voir si votre association de stomie locale vous fournira une marionnette gratuite.
Sinon, veuillez envoyer un courriel à Paul@gastronautpuppets.com
  • Nom, âge et sexe de votre enfant
  • Marionnette gastronaute demandée (voir tous les  gastronautes ICI)
  • Type et lieu de la stomie: colostomie (côté gauche ou droite), iléostomie (côté gauche ou droite), urostomie (haut ou bas)
  • Votre adresse postale
Infirmières et médecins de stomie  … Simplement m’envoyer un courriel à Paul@gastronautpuppets.com
  • Votre nom et votre titre professionnel
  • Marionnette gastronaute demandée (voir tous les  gastronautes ICI)
  • Votre adresse postale

Branches Canadiennes qui font des dons de marionettes
Un nombre croissant d’associations de stomie reconnaissent que ces marionnettes font beaucoup de bien. Ces dernières lèvent des fonds, achètent les marionnettes et les donnent aux enfants ayant une stomie dans leurs régions.

BC   Vancouver Ostomy Association                      autodraw@shaw.ca

AB   Edmonton Ostomy Association                       Fred Hermany redpumper@shaw.ca

SK   Saskatoon Ostomy Association                  Wand Dansereau wjdansereau@gmail.com 
                                                                                  Diane Boyd  dianeboyd@sasktel.net

SK   Regina Ostomy Chapter                                 Muffy Truscott muffytruscott@gmail.com

MB   Winnipeg Ostomy Association                       Lorrie Pismenny  pismel@mymts.net

ON   Belleville, Quinte West and Area Chapter      Joan Sindall    jsindall@cogeco.ca

ON   Hamilton & District Ostomy Association         Roger Ivol   rogerivol@shaw.ca

ON   London & District Ostomy Association            Ashley McFarlane

NF   Newfoundland and Labrador Chapter             Carol Wells     carol.wells@bellaliant.net

NF   Gander & District Ostomy Association            Delilah Guy    dguy@nf.sympatico.ca

Comment peuvent les marionnettes gastronautes être gratuits?
Liz et Phil Prosser de la International Children’s Ostomy Educational Foundation (ICOEF) et Paul Riome de LivingBiggerWithColostomy ainsi que certaines branches de la United Ostomy Association of Canada (UOAC) ont collaboré pour amener un peu de confort, de joie et d’optimisme aux enfants ayant une stomie.
Les gastronautes sont la vision de la ICOEF, qui fournit les marionnettes au prix de revient effectif et qui paie les frais de transport internationaux jusqu’à moi. 
Quelques branches de la UOAC ont adopté la cause et lèvent des fonds pour payer les marionnettes pour les enfants ayant une stomie dans leur region.
Pour les enfants ayant une stomie qui ne sont pas membres des ces branches de la UOAC, je donne Ies marionnettes personnellement.
Je paie tous les frais de courtage canadiens ainsi que les frais de transport.

Les enfants heureux sont notre recompense
Nous aimons recevoir et partager des photos des enfants avec une stomie avec leur marionnette gastronaute.

Confidentialité -  Nous ne partageons ni ne vendons vos informations personnelles. Photos seulement affichées avec permission.

 Gastronautes disponibles à travers le monde
• Australie (est)                                     Kylie@gastronautsrus.com
• Australie (ouest)                                 Ruth@gastronaustrus.com
• Canada                                               Paul@gastronautpuppets.com  
• France                                                
• Pays-Bas/Belgique/Allemagne         Lidy@gastronautsrus.com
• Philippines                                          Ronaldo@gastronautsrus.com
• Royaume-Uni                                      judy@gastronautsruscom
• États-Unis                                           janet@gastronautpuppets.com
• Tout autre pays                                  gastronautsrus@gmail.com


Le gastronaute Hogus et le gastronaute commanditaire du Canada
Paul Riome a été choisi comme gastronaute commanditaire du Canada. Grâce à Paul, Hogus est devenu l’un des gastronautes le plus photographié et parmi le plus bloggé de toute la famille gastronaute.
Hogus et Paul, chacun ayant une stomie, ont parcouru et escaladé le Népal pendant 36 jours.

Le gastronaute Hogus a été très populaire avec les enfants népalais

2 individus ayant des stomies … 3 sommets
Népal 2012

Hogus et Paul ont démontré aux autres individus ayant une stomie
(et surtout les enfants)

Nous ne sommes pas seuls

Nous pouvons faire tout ce que nous voulons faire

et être tout ce que nous voulons être

Nous pouvons mener des vies ordinaires
[même extraordinaires]

Cliquez ici pour plus d’informations sur les aventures de Hogus et Paul au Nepal  

Monday, October 7, 2013

Renaissance Great Comebacks Awards

I am honoured and humbled to receive these awards 
as both the Western Region Recipient and the National Ambassador for Canada
Sponsored by Convatec Canada in collaboration with United Ostomy Association Canada,
This award is designed to recognize a person with an ostomy who has:
  • Made significant achievements in his/her life following their ostomy surgery.
  • Made a meaningful contribution to the community or to others around them.
  • Contributed to eliminating prejudicial misconceptions relating to people with ostomies, in society
The $500 award will be used to provide Gastronaut Puppets free to child-ostomates in Canada. 

Following is my submission to the panel of judges. 

Living Bigger With Colostomy
by Paul Riome

I am so fortunate to be alive,
to experience my own personal renaissance,
and to live a great comeback as a cancer warrior
with a resection and a permanent colostomy. 

I have been blessed with an attitude that has no quit, and a body that can match that tenacity.  Certainly the cancer & colostomy hurt me, but it has also made me a stronger and better person.  While proving to myself that abilities after-colostomy were the same as before-colostomy, I set challenging goals that resulted in significant achievements.  Many people recognized these, and encouraged me to share stories to show that ostomates can live ordinary (even extraordinary) lives.

I humbly hope I have made a meaningful contribution to individual people, and to the ostomy community. 
In person, in OstomyCanada and Phoenix magazines, with Social Media, with Traditional Media, and with over 100 stories on LivingBiggerWithColostomy.com, I have sparked positive attitudes by ostomates and about ostomates.  Reaching out through CBC Radio and TV, the Financial Post, National Post, and Hockey Canada has created awareness and a positive image of ostomates to the wider diversity of mainstream Canadians.

I am a very private person.  My core personality is uncomfortable with public exposure, accolades, and the power of social media.  But cancer and colostomy have given me a renewed appreciation for life, and stretched me to share real-life experiences and to show good living after-ostomy … to inspire each of us to live bigger.  The positive ‘active-ostomate’ profile quietly demands change to the misconceived stereotypes associated with ostomates.

The National Ambassador Award is not for me personally, but rather to be a platform for increased credibility and exposure for a positive image of ostomates.   Hopefully this positive image will inspire other ostomates, and become a tipping point for changing societal misconceptions about ostomates.  In a small but incremental way, the National Ambassador Award is a catalyst to help improve the lives of ostomates in Canada and beyond.

Relating with Ostomates
I have empathy for ostomates, because I am an ostomate.  I share the pains of a disease that was worse than the prospects of an ostomy.  I share the anguish of the decision to have an ostomy.  I share the agony of surgery and recovery.   I share the sting of misconceptions and stereotypes associated with ostomates.  I quietly share the remorse for a damaged and compromised body.  Yet I am driven to share the positive aspects of life with an ostomy, intending to motivate others to recognize ostomies with a positive outlook. 
We are alive because of our ostomies, and we can live peaceful and fulfilling lives with our ostomies.  We need to believe this ourselves and consistently show it to others, to drive change to the prejudicial misconceptions relating to people with ostomies.

My Ostomy Story
I was 59 years old. Married for 37 years. Proud of our 2 adult children. No financial worries. A business that I enjoyed. Healthy and fit and physically active. Life was good.  Or so I thought.
I had ignored daily rectal bleeding for 2 years, assuming only hemorrhoids, and refusing all medical examinations and procedures.  I did eventually succumb to a colonoscopy, and was diagnosed with Invasive Adenocarcinoma (Rectal Cancer), with prescribed treatment of Abdomino-Perineal Resection  (surgery including a permanent colostomy and resection).
I had cancer.   Quality of life was to decline.   Life-expectancy was uncertain. 

Leaving my doctor’s office and still reeling from the shock, I drove to a peaceful place where I would connect with the natural world. I laid on a small hill, mesmerized by the tall grass waving in the wind, to clear my head.  Staring directly at death made it remarkably easy to focus on what was really important.  Clearly, the top priority for my life was to stay connected with my family.  Within hours I had a peaceful clarity for what had to be done.  I would take the surgery, pay the pain and time to recover, and defer the life-expectancy topic until lab test results gave me real facts to deal with.

I phoned my children, siblings, and parents to tell them of the cancer, and gave them comfort with my peace. My son asked “Dad, how do you feel?”  I told him that my lifelong persona had been “playing bigger” than I actually was, but this Cancer&Colostomy would soon force me to play my own size, and I dreaded the retreat.  [reference to a common sports expression, “he’s just 150 pounds, but plays like he’s 190”]

The Cancer&Colostomy would cause permanent damage.   I would have a 1½” hole in my abdomen, with a protruding piece of intestine, and carry a bag of poop … for the rest of my life.   Would my active sports life end?   Would a hockey hit result in a poop-bag-explosion?  Could I skate with my buttocks sewn together?  Would I be able to enjoy outdoor activities?  In social and business environments, would my colostomy be treated as a handicap?  That was the bottom.  I had allowed the Cancer&Colostomy to overpower me – making me believe I would be permanently damaged and weakened, and my future would be restricted, bleak, and disappointing.  Once recognized, I moved quickly from shock and despair to a powerful new resolve.  So be it.  I will live.  Any pain and body-damage will be just a minor side effect.  After surgery, I will do everything that I could do before surgery.  Life is an adventure.  Never quit.

Surgery day looming for 2 months, and I was relieved when the waiting was over.  Six hours disappeared, then a cloudy consciousness returned, and I thought “I am back and I am alive!”  My Cancer was gone, and a colostomy was a permanent part of my life.  I had traded Cancer for a Colostomy.  It was a good trade.

My Cancer&Colostomy motivated me to adjust my attitudes, and insist on the freedom to actually live and experience adventures that had been dormant on my bucket-list. I hiked the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island and Lake O’Hara in the Canadian Rockies.  I surfed and snorkeled in Hawaii, Mexico, and Costa Rica.  I trekked and climbed 60 days in rugged Nepal.  Through my website, I have shared a hundred stories of the satisfaction of living life and overcoming stigmas.

Three years ago my doctor told me I could have a perfectly normal life with a colostomy. 
I didn’t believe him then.   I do believe him now.

Significant Achievements after Ostomy

Very early in my Cancer&Colostomy adventure, I resolved that
“I will live.   After-ostomy I will do everything that I could do before-ostomy”
Hockey Comeback

Exactly four months after surgery, I was back playing hockey.  Hockey team-mates were curious, so I volunteered to answer any questions they had, and show them anything they wanted to see.  They all related to the red-neck attitude that prevents us from having rectal examinations and colonoscopies, even while knowing that these procedures are effective lifesavers.  Face-to-face, I had gut-wrenching influence on them, with a hard-hitting message “Get a Colonoscopy.  It could save your butt … maybe your life.”  Several wives (mostly with tears) told me it was my experience that convinced their husband to get a colonoscopy.  The message was powerful, and it spread quickly from our team to our league, then across North America.  Phoenix Magazine published a coverpage story (March2012) with a dual-theme … “prevention for hockey players, and optimism for ostomates”.    Hockey Canada and CARHA (representing 200,000 Canadian recreational hockey players) flooded their readers with email, social media, and newsletters with the theme “Penalties for not listening to your body”, and a shock-value call-to-action for hockey players to get a colonoscopy.    I am humbly pleased that others have benefitted from my experiences. 

West Coast Trail

Just one year after surgery, I would hike the West Coast Trail with my son and his wife.  As one of the Top-10 Treks in the World, the West Coast Trail would be the perfect test to confirm my conviction that an ostomy would not hinder my lifestyle. But daunting challenges loomed.  This was a 7-day wilderness trek with no support and no practical exit.  I was 60 years old, hiking with 30-year-olds … could I keep up?  Could I repair and rebuild my body post-surgery?  Would a backpack hipbelt damage my stoma?  Would I herniate carrying a heavy backpack?  Would I have enough experience to handle all colostomy-related events?  It was a long hard road from Surgery to Trek-Ready-Condition, but I pushed my body to extremes to be ready for this challenge.  Much of this story of trepidations, conditioning, experiencing, and sharing ostomy-related events was published in Ostomy Canada (winter 2012).  Many ostomates commented with a consistent theme, ‘if a 60-year-old ostomate can trek the WCT, then I can rise up and do a short walk’.
Personally, I was changing my life perspectives … appreciating life more than before … simplifying life to do more of what I wanted to do and less of what others thought I was obligated to do.  I found that when embarking on new life-experiences, or again experiencing treasured places or activities, I am humbled and thankful for the opportunity given to me.  A colostomy is not as good as the original equipment, but I get to live.  Living is everything.  I try to convey this appreciation for life – in how I live, and how I present in the social medias.  And I believe this message is being heard by both ostomates and non-ostomates.

Mount Everest BaseCamp

Trekking to Everest Base Camp and climbing mountains in Nepal had been on my bucket-list for decades. Cancer & Colostomy made me focus on what was important in life, and I began experiencing, rather than just dreaming my bucket-list.  There seems to be no natural reason for a Saskatchewan boy to dream of mountains, but I did.  In 2011, I trekked for a month in Nepal, with Mount Everest BaseCamp as the highlight.  I was originally drawn to experience the amazing landscape, but promised to return for the amazing Nepalese people. 

'We are alive, and we are here on Everest’

An emotional moment for 5 cancer warriors
Thankful - Joyful - Peaceful - Proud - Hopeful

Personal Renaissance

My personal renaissance had conspicuously evolved by 2012 when I returned to Nepal to climb 3 mountains.  I had stretched my target to “I can do more with my ostomy, than I did before my ostomy”.  The challenge was formidable … live immersed in the 3rd world for a month … persevere though extreme and harsh physical conditions … trek 244kms through rugged mountains near the top of the world … climb a total VERTICAL of 26kms ... live with 50% oxygen levels. At age 62. With a colostomy.
And my sense of belonging and contributing to the ostomy community was also evolving.  I wanted to meet an ostomate in Nepal, but sadly learned from our guide that there are few ostomates in Nepal – people just die because they can’t afford treatment or surgery.  We are so fortunate to have ostomies, and to be alive.
I would also carry Hogus (an ostomy puppet) for this entire adventure to bring awareness to the misconceptions about ostomates, and to show both child and adult ostomates that we are not alone and that we can live ordinary (even extraordinary) lives.

Climbing Mountains in Nepal

We each have our own 'mountains to climb', and the analogy prevailed in our ostomy community. These 'mountains' are the challenging personal barriers that we must break through, to live a better life.  They are difficult because we must overcome our own fears and limitations, adapt to uncomfortable circumstances, and find an inner-strength yet unknown to us.  Certainly an ostomy (and all that lead to the decision to have an ostomy) is a formidable challenge shared by many of us.  After-ostomy, many strive to return to a new-normal with new goals.
My 'mountains to climb' were actual mountains.  Climbing 3 mountains in Nepal was the target I set for myself. 

I dreamed, planned, committed to physical conditioning, then embarked on a 36 day adventure. 

I trekked with people half my age, hurt like everyone else on our team, but stretched my persistence, adaptability, and grit beyond any prior experiences.

At each summit, Hogus and I proudly displayed our ostomy gear, then quickly zipped up to protect sensitive body parts from the biting cold wind.  While this exposure shocked some people, it also exposed and challenged the unfair and inaccurate TV-image portrayal of ostomates.
On LivingBiggerwithColostomy.com, I shared over 60 stories about my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual adventures in Nepal, including many personal and graphic ‘ostomates-only’ experiences.  Within 6 months, these stories had over 60,000 reads from 125 countries.

Active, with Age and Ostomy

A dozen corporate sponsors (both ostomy suppliers and outdoor gear companies) contributed gear for my Nepal adventures, because they liked the image showing “Active, with Age and Ostomy”.  Our message was widely broadcast as these companies re-shared testimonials to reach their circle of followers – extending exposure well beyond our ostomy community.  This extended reach with a clear and positive image for ostomates, would force some people to reconsider and replace their prejudicial misconceptions of people with ostomies.

CBC Radio, CBC TV, and The National Post all carried positive stories to inform and influence their diverse audiences across Canada.
If a 63-year-old ostomate can be this active, then other ostomates can also live active lifestyles. Every active ostomate is a role-model to motivate other ostomates, and a change-agent to improve our stereotyped image perceived by the public.

Patron for Gastronauts Canada

Gastronaut Hogus (ostomy puppet) had made an impact in Nepal and around the world.  I was particularly moved by the many supportive and motivated comments by parents with child-ostomates who followed the adventures of Hogus&Paul in Nepal, combating their isolation and their uncertainties with their own challenges.  I was also aware that TheBowelMovement had supplied over 4000 similar Gastronauts to bring some comfort and hope to child-ostomates world-wide.  I believed I could make a worthwhile contribution to the ostomy community as Patron for Gastronauts Canada, committing a free ostomy-puppet to any child-ostomate in Canada.  I admire the leadership shown by the few Canadian Chapters that currently purchase and distribute puppets, and I will encourage other Chapters to do the same.  And for any child-ostomate not associated with a contributing Chapter, I will personally donate their free gastronaut.  I am finding tremendous personal mindshare and energy to commit to this worthy initiative.

Forging Forward

My colostomy is one of the best things to happen in my life. I am alive, and living is everything. But it also made me stronger and a better person. I have a higher appreciation for life, focusing on the important things, and setting worthy goals to achieve. I made a serious life-mistake by not listening to my body and refusing all medical examinations, and I paid the consequences. As a fortunate warrior and survivor, I am uniquely positioned to educate others, particularly as a credible proponent for lifesaving colonoscopies. 
I continue to evolve and grow as an active participant and contributor in the ostomy community. There are many good people that make significant impacts within the ostomy community, and I have great admiration and respect for their contributions.  I believe I can continue to present a positive image within the ostomy community, and beyond to the general public, and that image will incrementally change the social perception of ostomates.  Hopefully our collective efforts will inspire other ostomates to live bigger, and public misconceptions will be replaced by positive images of ostomates.

I will continue to live and share a positive active lifestyle as an ostomate at LivingBiggerwithColostomy.com