Get ‘em while you can!
Uncover Ostomy tshirts are back until December 16th!
For $15, you can give the gift of ostomy awareness.
Get ‘em while you can!
Uncover Ostomy tshirts are back until December 16th!
For $15, you can give the gift of ostomy awareness.
Whenever I talk about my life as a whole – you know, the general biography of me – I usually describe it with one word:
All of us, at one point, especially those who have dealt with Crohn’s, Colitis, Cancer, or whatever other hardships we’ve faced, we feel that our lives don’t make sense. The pain we’ve dealt with, the uncomfortable treatments we’ve been exposed to, and the changes we’ve experienced – looking back, it all seems so.. ridiculous.
For me, the ridiculous started when I was diagnosed with Crohn’s at 9 years old. Most of you already know my story, but for those who don’t, my disease got really bad when I was 11, and I was taken to the emergency room with a hemaglobin of 55 (for a normal kid my age at the time, it’s 120) because I was close to death. I couldn’t move or open my eyes, and I almost couldn’t breathe. Luckily, after 2 years of being in and out of the hospital, hovering just over the line of life and death, as the story goes, I made it out alive, thanks to ostomy surgery.
Now, you’d think for only having lived to the age of 13 that this would have been enough ridiculousness for anyone in a lifetime.
But of course, not for me.
Besides being a sufficiently awkward child from years of isolation in the hospital and being overweight from steroids, high school was pretty difficult. I was lucky enough to make it out with a few great friends, and somehow, a personality.
Thanks to my newfound personality, I was hired by Abercrombie & Fitch - the most prejudice company in existence. Oh, except, I wasn’t hired because of my bubbly attitude, but because they thought I was Asian. They had a “minority quota” they needed to fill and they thought I was half. (For the record, I am not)
That’s where I met my first first boyfriend. Turns out this guy had been dating his girlfriend for a year, while he was dating me.
I obviously didn’t learn much about men, because after joining my sorority in my first year of university, I surrounded myself with a ton of assholes. One of which, kept trying to convince me to date him. I didn’t – and good thing too - because he was actually in a relationship with another girl. And, his ex-girlfriend (now a prominent woman in tech in Toronto, haaaa) and her sorority sisters would call me and harass me because I was hanging out with him.
Oh yeah, that girl he was actually dating? She was the stewardess on my empty flight from Vancouver to Toronto a few years later. Sufficiently awkward – especially when she asked me how I had been. We had never met in person. But she knew who I was.
Then my grandmother died. Which I guess isn’t too ridiculous, because she was older, and an avid smoker. Still sucked, though.
Anyway, I had gotten fed up with men, and decided the next best option was to date my best guy friend – who had been chasing me for 2 years. The beginning of our relationship was pretty much out of an 80′s movie (Read: Pretty in Pink, Andie and Duckie.) He did everything for me, from letting me cry on his shoulder because of other guys, to dragging me to the hospital when I had a cold.
Just as we started dating, my dad died. From a rare blood disease. Yeah, a rare blood disease.
That, somehow, triggered my best friend turned boyfriend to turn into an absolute nutcase. He’d break up with me every 2 weeks because he “loved me too much” or because he “didn’t love me anymore,” then he would come to my window in the middle of the night and throw rocks at it to get my attention…just to cry on my shoulder and tell me he didn’t deserve me. When he wasn’t breaking up with me? He was proposing to me. He did 3 times. 2 years of breaking up, getting back together, and angry drunken emails and texts later, I eventually dumped his ass and told him never to speak to me again when I found out he was talking to other girls. Apparently, dating your best friend doesn’t really mean anything.
In the middle of those 2 years, I met another guy who, within the first few nights of knowing me, expressed his undying love. I was taken, so I couldn’t date him, but he was… well, let’s say, “on my hook.” Think, How I Met Your Mother:
Eventually, after I was done with my ex-boyfriend, we ended up dating, but only for 2 weeks. We stopped because a mutual friend of ours was extremely upset that we were, as she had always liked him. So we broke up. He was supposed to go to law school in Australia, anyway. However, a few months later, I ran into this guy at our mutual friend’s cottage. He expressed how he didn’t want to go to law school so he could be with me. And that was that.
We dated for an amazing few months before I moved to Manhattan for school. We stayed together long-distance and, somehow, made it through.
Surprise! While I was in Manhattan, I had to have 3 minor surgeries, you know, because of course my body needed to fail while in a country without universal healthcare.
I eventually made it back to Canada to move in with this boyfriend. It made sense at the time. Turns out, this boyfriend was not who I expected. In fact, he was a totally and completely different person (Read: an angry narcissist who treated me worse than the dirt under his feet.) I broke up with him 4 months later.
To take my mind off of that whole situation, and to give me something else to do while living with my mother again, I started working on a startup business with a developer who was brilliantly talented. Unfortunately, after devoting all of my waking hours to the business, I found out that he was absolutely insane. He thought that me – a woman – was only meant to take his orders, be his puppet, and work as his servant. We had to end the working relationship and he wasn’t too happy about it… which, was clearly stated in the 2 weeks of threatening and absolutely psychotic emails he sent that called me names and said that “the devil was going to get me.”
Eventually, life started to even itself out as I made my way to Jamaica for one of my best friends’ weddings, this past February.
And that’s where I met Jake Gyllenhaal.
The lookalike’s name was Matt, and he was in the airport sitting a few rows down from my friends and I, while we all waited for our flight.
[Sidenote: I do this thing where I see if there are any interesting looking guys and see if they could possibly entertain me for the week of vacation. I wasn't sure if he was going to be staying at the same resort, but in the meantime, he was pretty to look at.]
Luckily, he was staying at the same resort. It turns out, as I learned when he approached me the first night there, that he was from London, ON (where I used to go to university, and where my brother and cousins still did.) Apparently, he also used to live with the older brother of a guy I went to high school with. I had a great time with him and his friends that week and was a little sad when the week came to a close. After all, what happens on vacation, stays on vacation, right?
Apparently, not. While we collected our luggage in the airport back in Canada, Matt asked for my number. Coincidentally, I had already planned to be in London that very weekend, to see my brother and cousins. And I thought he should know.
So I visited him that weekend.
And then I visited him again, shortly after.
And then he visited me.
And somehow, we ended up meeting up every weekend for 3 months. And it was wonderful.
But I knew, having done the long-distance thing before, it wasn’t something I wanted to do for very much longer. No matter how amazing Matt was – and amazing he really, really was.
But this was….Ridiculous.
So one weekend, we’re at my friend’s cottage and he gets a call from an old roommate-friend of his.
He had bought a house. In Toronto. 2 blocks from me.
And he needed another roommate.
Very long story, short…
This weekend, Matt moves to Toronto.
While most of what I call the “ridiculous” parts of my life have often made me sad, upset, lonely, and angry… this, by far, is making up for all of it.
The reason I went on this long-winded rant is to clearly illustrate that no matter how hopeless, how awful, how inconceivably ridiculous your life seems, it is important to remember that ridiculous has two sides. The really bad, and the really good.
You could be sitting in a hospital bed, staring at the ceiling, wondering if you are going to make it through the next day. You could be looking at your changed body in the mirror, wondering if you’ll ever feel normal again. Or you could be thinking of people past and wondering how they ever treated you in that way. I know I did.
But I also now know that you just have to make it through one side to get to the other.
Oh, yeah, that award I was supposed to Skype in to accept in NYC this past weekend? It would so happen that the internet went out in the North East at the same time I was supposed to do it.
I was not only sad that I couldn’t make it into the city to accept in person, but I was even more upset that I could barely be a part of the event because of the failure of technology.
Until I looked over at Matt, who made a stupid joke, just to make me smile.
And suddenly, all that seemed ridiculous to me, didn’t seem so ridiculous anymore.
The other day, I posted some awesome news on the Uncover Ostomy Facebook page.
What was it? Uncover Ostomy was nominated for an award from WEGO Health! I was so unbelievably excited, especially since we just find out we won that award from NYU, that I posted it as soon as they informed me on Twitter!
But I seemed to have gotten a bit ahead of myself…
Uncover Ostomy had actually been nominated for 4 different categories.
— WEGO Health (@wegohealth) October 6, 2013
— WEGO Health (@wegohealth) October 7, 2013
— WEGO Health (@wegohealth) October 7, 2013
— WEGO Health (@wegohealth) October 7, 2013
Another chance for us to be recognized. Another chance for ostomies to be recognized.
So, how can you help?
To ensure that we keep getting recognized, each and every one of you needs to go the WEGO Health Awards site and start adding your own nominations!
It’s super easy to do. Just head to http://awards.wegohealth.com and start here:
All you have to do is type in my name, or Uncover Ostomy, and fill out the information. The two minutes it takes to do the nomination is the two minutes it could take for us to win, and for us to get the recognition we need. (PS; it asks for my email address, so feel free to put in firstname.lastname@example.org)
While you’re at it, follow any other health activists online? Nominate them too! We in the health community gotta help each other out, right?
In advance, I want to thank you all, and let’s keep our fingers crossed!
For those of you who don’t know, today, October 5th, is World Ostomy Day; A day for all of us to get off of our (unused, for some of us) asses, and destroy the negative stigma surrounding ostomy surgery!
Whether it be getting outside and talking to strangers on the street, to tweeting about it, to posting pictures on Facebook, to simply thanking yourself for accepting what you have, today is the day to appreciate the ostomy, and teach others about it, as well.
On another note, I want to congratulate you all for supporting Uncover Ostomy and helping us reach our 4 year anniversary!
While we technically launched Uncover Ostomy on October 3rd, 2009, that year, we launched it in tandem with World Ostomy Day. So, today, I am celebrating both! (What an awesome day, right?!)
Now, after four years of growing our community, spreading awareness, and accepting who we are, you may be wondering what Uncover Ostomy has been able to do in such a long period of time. Well, some really great things:
1. We have gotten ostomies in the mainstream media spotlight (Global News), which, 4 years ago, was almost impossible!
2. We’ve also gotten recognized by major institutions, (NYU)!
3. And most importantly – I, personally, have noticed an extreme change in the attitudes of ostomates around the world! I am no longer getting Facebook messages telling me that we should be keeping our ostomies a secret (yes, I used to get those) but I am getting messages asking me for advice on how to tell as many people as possible.
While these accomplishments are absolutely amazing, and proof that we are making a difference, they are just the beginning.
In fact, there are still a number of things that need to change, that, even after four years, still require much more work. What are these, you might ask?
1. Ostomy is still not considered a word on spell check:
2. There are still people who are having a hard time accepting the change in their body
3. We still have many people in the public seeing the ostomy as negative
(Notice how she’s in health care??)
I brought light to these things above, not to discourage, but to motivate us to keep pressing on. This is all proof that there is still much more work to be done.
World Sodomy Day, seriously?
So friends – those with ostomies and those without – make today a day of awareness. Tell every one you know or don’t know, show every one you know or don’t know, and most importantly, be proud.
I know I am.
Yesterday afternoon, I received a very exciting email.
Myself, along with Uncover Ostomy, was awarded the NYU-SCPS Bart Lawson Award for Service for Humanitarianism!
The Bart Lawson Award was created to encourage social responsibility and recognize members of the NYU alumni community for their accomplishments in the community and the industries they serve. The Humanitarianism category recognizes:
..the extraordinary contributions of an alumnus/a who is committed to the education of others, anywhere in the world, through participation in community service and the alleviation of human suffering.
I am speechless. I literally cannot express into words how proud I am of each and every one of you. Every one of you who has had surgery and spoken out about their bag. Each and every one of you who has helped another facing surgery. Each and every one of you who doesn’t even have an ostomy, but has been supporting the cause. I am proud of you all. And you all are the reason this happened.
The best part? Not only did we win an award for spreading awareness around the world, but we’ve all worked hard enough to make our contributions recognized by a school such as New York University! An ostomy campaign winning an award like this? Absolutely amazing.
Since I will be speaking for UO at an event at Mt. Sinai Hospital on the same day of the awards ceremony, I will be unable to attend in person. I will, however, be Skyping in to receive it, on behalf of us all.
Again, thank you to everyone for making this possible and proving that we are doing something great.
So today I turn 24.
The big two-four.
The exciting twenty-plus-four.
The life-changing-not-quite-twenty-five-but-almost-a-quarter-of-a-century-old, twenty-four.
I’ve never been 24, but from what I can tell, it isn’t that great.
So, being the always-knowledge-seeking individual that I am, I wanted to do a bit of research on what I could expect to experience in this new stage of my life. I mean, at 13, I “became a woman” according to Jewish tradition, at 18 I was able to vote and buy lottery tickets, at 19 I was able to drink, and at 21, I was able to drink in the US. 22 was exciting for me because I moved to NYC for grad school at NYU, and 23 was exciting for me because it was my first time legitimately joining the workforce.
So what’s left?
Well, apparently, this:
Now don’t get me wrong – this isn’t going to be another one of my “woe is me, my birthday sucks” type blog posts that I’ve had in the past. I mean, I’m still not a huge fan of my birthday, (mostly because of the timing), but this year, I’ve decided to look on the brighter side of things. After all, I’ve had a pretty great year as a 23 year-old; getting an awesome new job, buying my own home, finding an amazing boyfriend, and beating my Crohn’s (again!) – so I really can’t complain.
But what’s next?
Like… what is actually supposed to happen at 24? Do I get any tax breaks I can look forward to? Do I get special discounts at the grocery store? Will anyone respect me more as a 24 year-old? I’m pretty sure the answer is no.
So really, what do 24 year-olds get to look forward to?
Well, according to my Facebook newsfeed…. all of this:
(Ok, not entirely true… Some of them are so freakin’ cute.)
Home improvement shopping
Going to bed before 11pm
To be completely honest (as I always am), 24 is actually scaring me.
Do I want engagements and weddings and babies and home improvements and a full night’s rest? I mean, I guess I do? Eventually… but seeing this stuff happening all around me is almost surreal. I don’t feel even close to old enough for any of this to happen to my friends, let alone myself!
But it’s happening.
And I just have to take it.
I have no idea what’s going to happen in my 24th year, and apparently, the possibilities are endless.
But for now, I do know one thing:
And I’m going to enjoy it.
I’ve always hated August. It’s a terrible month.
And I’m not the only one who thinks so. I mean, Buzzfeed agrees with me.
We agree that August brings crazy hot temperatures.
The end of freedom for kids everywhere.
And, for all of us, it marks the end of the best season: summer.
But for me, it marks much more than that.
For me, August marks the end of another year of my life, as my birthday quickly approaches within the first 3 days of September. It reminds me that another year of my life is ending, and that I’m probably not any wiser than I had been the year before.
August has recently begun to mark the time in my life where I made a terrible life mistake. I chose to believe that someone was the person I was meant to spend the rest of my life with, who I very sadly realized, never deserved me in the first place. August marks the time where I had to move out of our shared apartment.
(It was way less dramatic, I swear.)
Having moved out of the place I shared with my, now ex-boyfriend, I had to move back in with my mother into my childhood home.
Except, only for a few months, as this August she sold the place and moved out.
This month now also marks the time in my life where my childhood home disappeared.
But what August really marks for me, and will forever mark for me, is the loss of two very important people in my life.
The first loss I experienced in August of 2008, was my grandmother. She passed away on August 13th, 5 years ago.
She was an extremely important person in my life because she was the person who helped me discover my passion for acting.
Being one of the most respected actresses in Canada, having sat on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Acting Union, ACTRA, and starting a home for aged performers in Toronto (PAL), she was the person who brought me in to the world of performance.
At a very young age, she enrolled me into multiple acting classes, where she followed my talent. As I grew up, she mentored me and taught me the ins and outs of the industry. But my favourite memories I had with her were those times she would take me on set while she was filming (my favourite of which, being for the movie Beautiful Girl, where I got to hang out with Fran Drescher!)
But most of you may know her from her famed role in Billy Madison, as the Lunch Lady:
My grandmother helped me find my passion in life, and because of that, she will always be a part of who I am.
But the person who has played one of the most pivotal roles in shaping who I am today, was the man I lost 4 years ago, on this day: My father.
For those of you who have been following me since I started this blog, or even over the past few years, you’ve already read about my dad. I talk about him often.
For those of you who don’t know the story of my my father, his fight with a rare blood disease called myelofibrosis, his search for a bone marrow match, and how his legacy was the catalyst for bone marrow drives in Canada, you can read about his story here. You can also read the blog I kept during the month of his treatment all the way up to his passing, here.
This has been the reason I’ve hated August as much as I do.
August reminds me of the worry. August reminds me of the stress. August reminds me of the sadness. And August reminds me of watching my father disappear, literally, before my eyes.
This year, however, August has been different.
Of course I miss him, and I’m sad, and I always will be… But things are starting to change.
They’re starting to blur.
When I first realized that details were starting to disappear, or blend together, I got very upset. I couldn’t believe that I had let myself forget some of the conversations my dad and I had had prior to his being admitted to the hospital. I was so mad at myself for not remembering some of the jokes he made to me in the hospital. And I couldn’t believe that the details of the few days we spent waiting for it to happen… have all started to merge into a faint memory.
At first, I was devastated. I was mad at myself. And I was mad at time.
That’s what time does. It blurs.
But this August, I began to realize something else.
Time was only blurring that horrible moment in my life.
The blurring of those horrible memories has begun to change the way I remember my father. Those awful times that have been so clear in my head these past 4 years, have slowly been replaced with old memories that had been pushed aside.
The memories that now fill my mind are the happy times my dad and I used to share, like when we used to huddle over his computer so he could teach me how to use a nifty new program he had just bought… Or the times he’d try to teach me math that I wasn’t quite getting.. Or the inappropriate jokes he would tell me (and to not tell my mother that he had). But most importantly, the memories of his support, help, and love during my sickness are what are coming back the most.
On this day, every year, I usually write a morbid piece. A piece riddled with sad memories, sad words, and sad feelings.
But this August is different.
Today, on this 30th day of August, I received the news that my latest flare of Crohn’s disease is gone.
While I had been struggling with the disease for the past few months and wishing more than anything that my dad was here to help me through it, hearing the news that I’ve beat it once more, on the anniversary of his death, couldn’t be better.
Maybe August isn’t so bad after all.
As kids, we were taught many things:
Like how to tie our shoes. Or how to ride a bike. Or that eating the seeds from watermelons would lead to watermelon trees growing in our bellies. And that if you make a funny face for too long, it will stay that way forever.
Ok, so maybe I had a bit of a ridiculous childhood…
But that’s besides the point.
The point is, that growing up, we looked towards our adults, our professionals, our society leaders, to teach us what was what.
Despite the rolling of the eyes, the scoffs, or the “I’m not listening to you” looks into the distance, we were always kind of paying attention. And what they said would always play some role in how we viewed the world around us.
That is why I am beside myself with anger. Anger towards the Cincinnati Police Department.
As a lot of you already know, The Cincinnati Police Department has started a new campaign to scare kids away from guns. While I’m not opposed to ridding the world of gun violence, I am strongly opposed to how this particular department has chosen to do it - They’ve started a new campaign that will show at-risk youth “gruesome” pictures of gunshot survivors.
But not of bloody wounds. And not of kids lying dead on the street.
Instead, they are showing “gruesome” pictures of survivors with ostomy bags. The hope is that these kids will “think” about their lifestyle.
I mean, after all, they wouldn’t want to be like one of those “gruesome” people in the pictures they’re being shown.
I mean, come on.
Who would ever want to go near me? Who would ever want to live the life I lead? Right?
According to the article, Lt. Joe Richardson gives reasoning to the campaign:
“You’re not killed, but you’re walking around with a colostomy bag and that’s just not the way to get a girl’s attention by limping down Warsaw Avenue with a colostomy bag,”
“You’re not killed,” he says.
No, Joe. You’re not killed.
In fact, your life is saved because of it.
The point of this campaign, while a noble cause, is extremely misguided and ignorant. It’s just another example of the negative stigma still out there. Another example of the misunderstood saviour. Another example as to why we all have to keep fighting to spread the word.
By the way, Joe? I can guarantee that if you saw me on Warsaw Avenue – I’d get your attention.