-Insert One of Shane’s NCA Comments Here-

[For those who don't know, NCA means not camp appropriate]

It was July of 2007 and I had just arrive at the Calgary airport, fresh off the plane from Toronto, excited to get to Camp Horizon Ostomy camp for the second time. There he was, waiting for me. I was one of 4 campers on his list to pick up.

I saw him, ran up to him, and said, “Hey Shane! Remember me?”

It had been 3 years since I had been to camp.

“I want to say yes…” he replied, and then made one of his signature silly faces.

He didn’t recognize me.

We had been emailing on and off over those three years, but I had changed dramatically since my first time at camp; I had lost about 25 pounds, grew about 6 inches, and matured 3 years. It’s amazing what having ostomy surgery and getting healthy will do for you.

Eventually he realized who I was and we reunited with a great warm hug.

That week of ostomy camp with Shane had been just as fun and memorable as the week three years prior. It was meaningful, exciting, and of course with him, absolutely hilarious.  Shane had been volunteering at camp for years after his run as a camper in the 90s had come to an end. He lived and breathed camp Horizon and all that it stood for. He had gotten so much love and support from ostomy camp that he had always felt he owed it to the camp to give it right back.

You can imagine how thrilled I was to have the opportunity to volunteer with him this past summer alongside his years of experience and his passion for the camp. Again, that week of camp was filled with love and support and a whole bunch of ridiculous events.

Shane and Jason [Sorry Jay, I just had to post this!]This past summer’s week of ostomy camp ended with myself, Shane, and his best friend and another volunteer Jason hanging out in the airport waiting for our flights back home to our various destinations. We were only really just sitting at a table in the fast food area joking and laughing but I think it was one of the most memorable times I’ve had from ostomy camp.

This past November I had spoken for an ostomy event in BC with Pat, the coordinator for camp Horizon ostomy camp. After I spoke, she stood up, did a little speech, and played an old recording of a news report from the 90s all about camp. I watched the video go into what camp was all about and how important it was to campers when all of a sudden Shane’s teenage face popped up. I burst out laughing. He looked so small and silly and all I could think about was seeing him at camp the next summer and teasing him in person about how adorable he was.

Little did I know that his silly jokes in the airport terminal restaurant were the last jokes I would ever hear come out of his mouth.

Last night, Shane passed away from a stroke.

He was only 31, and 18 at heart.

I really didn’t know how to go about writing this blog. I figured throwing in some quick summaries of what he meant to me was good, but it really does not even begin to describe the passionate, strong, and funny person he was. I know a lot of people who knew and loved him are going to read this and have their own memories to share and I wish I could write them all down and really share to everyone how amazing he really was.

Though I only really spent time with Shane for a week here and there, I felt like he was a major part of my life. Shane not only gave me support and hope in terms of my ostomy, but gave me a great friendship from our conversations over email, MSN, or Facebook chat. These conversations would usually be about absolutely nothing but we would just talk all the time. Talk about camp, talk about video games, talk about school, or the fact that he had been telling me for years that he was going to come visit me in Ontario…

He had actually told me at camp this summer that he was planning to come to Ontario and promised he would visit me…

As I said, there is no way I can summarize Shane into a blog post, and those who knew him as well can attest to that. He was just very special person.

Shane, I will really really miss you <3

Ostomy Ambassador- Justin

I came up with the idea of the Ostomy Ambassador thing about a month ago when I received a very random message from a guy named Justin. Justin was a camper at ostomy camp this year who I never actually had a chance to talk to. He was in the older group and I had to spend my time with the younger kids so we really never had a chance. He seemed quiet and shy but was definitely a good guy. I knew that this ostomy thing was new to him and I wished I could have  talked to him more.

To my surprise, Justin ended up finding me on Facebook and messaged me himself. He said that he had seen this website and wanted to know if I could help him out. He told me how he struggled to tell people about his ostomy but he wanted that to change.

So after talking to him for a bit here and there, he told me that he was going to start telling his friends about it.

And he did!

Justin messaged me one night about how he told a few of his friends and was shocked at how well they took it. A week or so later he messaged me again saying he had told more friends and they too were completely accepting. The week after, again, he was telling more and more people about his ostomy and noticing that it was easier every time!

Told ya!

So, Justin, you are an ostomy ambassador, and I thank you  for giving me this idea.

Keep it up!

Ostomy Ambassador- Alliyah

It seems like after that “be an Ostomy Ambassador” post I wrote, I’ve been getting some great feedback!

The other day one of the wonderful campers from ostomy camp this year, Alliyah, sent me a Facebook message telling me how she was being an ambassador and I wanted to help spread the word.

Tomorrow, Sept 8th, just after 4pm, Alliyah will be interviewed on 102.3 ‘The Wave,’ a radio station in Nanaimo British Columbia. It’s for the Variety Children’s Charity Radiothon where she will be sharing her story.

She told me she’s really nervous but I know she will do a great job!

If you want to listen in at 4pm [BC time, remember] click here!

Good luck Alliyah!!

Be an Ostomy Ambassador

One of the best traditions that we have at ostomy camp is our final campfire. It’s a time for everyone to talk about the experience they had that week at camp, send love to someone who couldn’t make it that year, or tell everyone there how much they mean to them.

In front of the campfire this year, someone came up and said a little speech. This person talked about how camp was where we all felt comfortable, happy, and secure with who we are. Camp was where it didn’t matter what we had, because at there, everyone was accepted.

Camp, they said, was the way the rest of the world should be and that we had the power to make it so.

I completely agree.

We do have the power to make the world as amazing as ostomy camp.

As individuals, we can make the world as accepting and comfortable with differences by talking about them and being comfortable with them ourselves. We can teach those who don’t know and we can show that there is never anything to be ashamed about.

I don’t think I talk about this enough, but this campaign was created to do just that. It was made to teach those who didn’t know about ostomies what they are and that we, as ostomates, or we, as people who know about ostomies, completely accept them.

It is our duty, as individuals, to make the world like camp.

Tell people about your ostomy or, if you don’t have one, tell people that you know about them or know someone who has one. Explain what it is, show them the Facebook group, and show them the website.

Then, tell me about it!

I’ve decided that I want to name these, what I’m calling, “Ostomy Ambassadors”.

As I see them, I will blog about them and say what they have done to help spread the word. So far I already have 3 I want to write about because they have come to me and told me what they had done. They also told me how great they felt by doing it.

So to all of my followers- Invite people to the Facebook page, show off the website, tell everyone you know about what “ostomy” means, and tell me about it! Write it on the Facebook wall, or post it here, or send me a message- anything.

Do whatever you can to be an Ostomy Ambassador

Thanks guys :]

UOAA Youth Rally

So I know after talking about Canadian Ostomy camp, a lot of the American’s out there were jealous. Why didn’t they get an ostomy camp? They should have fun too!

Well my American friends, there may not be an ostomy camp but there is something just as great!

Every summer the United Ostomy Association of America hosts something they call the “Youth Rally.” It’s like camp, where kids from all over come and spend time away from home meeting other kids with ostomies and having a great time.

Unfortunately, I was unable to go but Rob, the founder of IDEAS, was there to experience it along with Carly and Clinton, the kids who went with him to Mount Everest. It seemed like they all had a great time and I wish I could have gone with them.

Just like with Canada ostomy camp, it’s hard to be able to put an experience like these into words sooo here is the link to the online photo album that the UOAA posted with pictures from the rally, and hopefully the pictures will speak louder than words! Take a look!

 

I Want to Go Back Already

I’ve spent the past 2 days catching up on much needed sleep. Last night I literally passed out from 6pm-9pm in front of the tv… hence why this is so late!

Saturday night, after a longgg day of kicking campers out of bed at 4am, making sure they arrived at the airport, and then organizing flights for those kids who had missed their flight… I finally got home from an amazing week at ostomy camp.

3 years have gone by since I had last been to Camp Horizon near Bragg Creek Alberta, though it felt like I had never left. The cabins had the same mattresses and smell, the basketball court had the same baskets hanging from the pole, and the food was still the same. Wow, did I miss that place.

Main hall

Being back at camp this year, however, was unlike any of the experiences I had had before. When I had been at camp in the past, I was with older kids, doing older kid camp activities, and was surrounded by kids who had recently gotten their ostomy. This year I was with the youngest ostomy group. We did less adventurous things, and the counsellors and I had to keep a close eye on them, yet, it seemed as though these kids were much more mature about their ostomies than the oldest group I had been with years back. Most of these kids had been born with their ostomies or had gotten them extremely young and understood what they meant and how to deal with them. Not one kid expressed sorrow or regret for having one; just sheer joy that they were different and special. It was amazing to see.

The week was full of the usual camp activities. We played field games, did some arts and crafts, and had campfires. My favourite part of osto week, like we have every year, is magic circle. Magic circle is when a group gets together and shares anything they want to about their ostomies, their issues, any questions they have, and just a chance to find strength in each other. One of the questions we were asked in the circle this year was to discuss any challenges we’ve faced because of our ostomies. Not one kid in my group said they had experienced a challenge.

The week was also different this year because I was a volunteer. I was sleeping in a lodge instead of a cabin, I had responsibilities, and I was surrounded by men. Yep. Besides the camp coordinator and one other woman who was a volunteer, the other volunteers were all guys. And they were also guys who had been volunteers when I was a camper… So obviously they decided to take it upon themselves to make sure I was duly initiated into the volunteer group. Not only was I called “Rookie” and told not to talk the entire week, they decided one night that I needed a permanent marker moustache.

 

Rookie moustache

Despite being hazed, I actually had an amazing time with these guys. It was definitely weird to be on the other side with them, but I couldn’t have picked a better group of guys to be surrounded by. I already miss them all.

This week was definitely a week of laughing, goofing off, playing around, and sharing memories, but it was also about learning. I learned so much from the strength of the kids in my group. They were all so mature, so brave, and have dealt with so much. I know that I’ve always been ok with my ostomy, but a lot of that reason is because I was able to choose. These kids didn’t have a choice to be given what they had, yet they have gracefully accepted it, talk about it all the time, and make jokes about it more than I could have ever imagined. I love them all.

Osto camp 2011??

Sidenote: I’m not really allowed to share pictures from osto camp on here, due to privacy issues, but there is one picture I wanted to share. At the end of the week every year, counsellors give their kids awards to show their appreciation to them. This year, I was lucky enough to receive something as well from my team. I was given a thank you card signed by all my campers and the staff. I wanted to share it because some of the things written on there actually mean the world to me. I can’t believe how much these kids said I helped them, because, honestly, they helped me more than they can even imagine.

 

Thank you card from my yellow team! [Names blurred for privacy, but you can get the gist. Love them]

Bag Camp!

I’m still packing

Well, not packing. I’m watching a PVR’d episode of The Young and the Restless.

I still need to finish packing.

My flight to Calgary leaves at 7am tomorrow morning which means I have to wake up at 5am.

Tomorrow morning I will be headed to Bragg Creek, Alberta to volunteer at ostomy camp!

I’ll be gone from tomorrow until the 10th, so there won’t be any blogging from me, unfortunately. The good news is, I’ve been informed the guys from IDEAS, who are coming to camp too, will be making some awesome content to post here!

Oh! Just remembered I need to pack a towel. Need to do that before I forget.

See ya in a weeeekk!

 

That One Time, At Bag Camp…

A little while ago I blogged about my past experiences at Ostomy Camp. I talk about how much fun I had and how I wanted to be a volunteer this summer, but not knowing if I was allowed to [You have to be 21 and I wont be 21 till September!]

Wellllll it looks like that didn’t matter because it has just been confirmed that I am, in fact, a volunteer at camp Horizon this summer!

I cannot tell you how unbelievably excited I am to be there. I finally get to give back to the camp I’ve gotten so much out of. I’ll get to participate in all the camp activities like swimming and arts and crafts and the water rafting and shopping trips we make! Not to mention being a part of the support meetings and being able to listen to kids retell their ostomy journeys.

I will definitely be collecting memories to share with you all. I’m thinking about vlogging the entire trip [video blogging]… but if it’s anything like my Punta Cana trip, I had too much fun to remember to record the video lol. But I will try.

YAY

Bet You’ve Never Been To Ostomy Camp

Team orange

I was just in the library a little while ago and I was bored so I started looking through my tagged pictures on Facebook and came across this one. [can you spot me? I’m in the tiara. Don’t ask lol]

It was taken with my cabin/team/friends of Horizon Summer camp at the end of our week together back in the summer of 2007. I still remember that week, and the week I went in 2004, like it was yesterday.

Horizon Summer camp is located outside of Calgary Alberta, hidden in the mountains. It is a summer getaway for kids [and some adults] with all sorts of illnesses and disabilities. The two years I went, I went for ostomy camp.

Not every kid that went to ostomy camp, however, had an ostomy like I did. Yeah, there were the kids with the good old ileostomies, like me,  but there were also the kids with colostomies, urostomies, kids with their “bags” on the inside, and kids who had gotten their ostomies reversed. There was a wide range of us, and we all learned from each other.

I don’t even know how to talk about camp because being there was not something you can just type out. I mean, I can say how we did all the normal summer camp things like swim, rock climb, arts and crafts, food fights…etc, but Horizon was so much more than a normal summer camp experience.

I know this, because I went to normal summer sleepover camp too. So not the same.

There was something different with this camp.

Our campfire activities did not just include scary stories of axe murders, but they were also about scary hospital stories. Swimming was not just about jumping into the water, but about learning which types of bathing suits to wear and how to wear them with our bags. Bed times were not about staying up late and talking about boys we liked, but actually about how to tell these boys we had ostomies. Camp was not just about getting over the fear of having an ostomy, but also getting over the fear of white water rafting [which I did].

Camp was not just camp. Camp was a support system.

Not only did I have other campers to learn from and who could learn from me, but I had counsellors, nurses, and volunteers there as well. The counsellors were there to make sure we went to activities and didn’t disappear to do our own thing. They were the watchdogs. One counsellor told me that she noticed how the ostomy group was much harder to control because we were just like normal kids. Duh.

The nurses were great too because, obviously they were there if we had any issues, but mostly they taught us tips and tricks with products and gave us information on potential problems and ways to avoid them. It was a resource not everyone had been able to have back home.

…Now I don’t want to come off  biased or mean or anything… But the volunteers were definitely my favourite people at camp [besides the kids]. These volunteers were people, with, or without ostomies, who just wanted to come lend support and join in on the fun of camp. It was great to hear stories and tips and learn from the volunteers who had ostomies who were older. It was nice to see what the road ahead could lead to. It was also great to have volunteers who didn’t have ostomies. I actually asked one volunteer why he volunteered if he didn’t have an ostomy. He told me it was because he wanted to help the kids. In the end, however, he ended up telling me that instead, the kids had helped him by showing our bravery and our courage. We taught him a thing or two!

I’m kind of sad now, thinking of all this… I haven’t been able to go in a few years. When you hit the age of 18- you graduate. So in 2007, right before I turned 18, I graduated Horizon. The rule goes you can’t come back and volunteer until you’re 21. I’m 21 this Sept. So to see if I could bend the rules, I sent an email to the coordinator of the camp, Pat, hoping to hear good news. Well I did hear good news- the camp is expanding and they are taking in way more campers! That means tons more kids can now go to camp and experience all the same things I did. That really puts a smile on my face. On the flip side/selfish side, however, Pat, told me I’m being put on a list of people who also want to volunteer and I’ll be told if I’m chosen since there are too many….

I hope I’m chosen.

There’s Always Someone…

So last night I had a conversation with a girl I went to ostomy camp with. We went to a place called Horizon in Calgary. It was a great week long experience to meet other ostomates and to learn from them. I have some great memories from there…But anyways, this girl… I don’t want to name names, to be fair to her, but I’ll explain how she always came off to me…

She was a quiet girl. Seemed like one of the ones who was forced to come to camp out of her own will but stayed quiet about not wanting to be there to avoid drawing attention to herself. She rarely participated and didn’t really talk when the rest of us shared our stories. I never really talked to her because I thought she would have preferred to be left alone. Maybe I should have.

Well last night, and after World Ostomy Day ended, her facebook statuses read:

“yay finally that embarrassment of a day is over.”

“Hate’s how people would be celeabrating such a pointless day there are much better things to celeabrate than this seriously do you think you’ll make an improvment … NO you wont”

 

Of course I had to comment on the one about making an improvement, just like other fellow campers had commented, and I said, “it’s working so far.”

After I did this, she started to message me on Facebook. She told me that she was embarrassed by the way I was promoting the ostomy and she was ashamed to have one because of it. She didn’t understand how talking about myself and my ostomy was supposed to help. I kindly explained to her that our campaign is not about the ostomy but about a normal girl who happens to have an ostomy. She said she didn’t the point of the whole thing. I told her it was to show other ostomates that it was ok to be proud of what they had and to teach others what an ostomy is. She replied saying we weren’t giving enough information about the ostomy and I told her it takes time and that you couldn’t force all this information on someone who had no idea what an ostomy was and to expect them to understand or listen. I told her by getting people to ask questions about it, they would learn. I said a person is more inclined to listen to an answer if they asked a question for it in the first place.

Even after I explained all this to her, she still didn’t approve.

No matter what the topic, there’s always someone who doesn’t like the message. Just like yesterday someone commented on the facebook page saying she didn’t think I actually had an ostomy. Someone’s always going to have something to say. I know that. But that’s not what bothered me so much.

The thing that did bother me was that this was a girl I went to ostomy camp with. She was part of my support system. There are tons of other campers who have already joined in and promoted the campaign themselves. She was part of their support system too. I just made me think. Maybe she missed something during that week of camp. Why isn’t she happy that the message is out? In whatever shape or form its being told, shouldn’t she be happy the campaign is helping others like her and teaching those who had no idea what an ostomy is?

Like I said, I expected people to be upset, I just never expected a fellow Horizon camper to be the one…

How do you feel about the campaign?