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The title of Jo-Ann Tremblay’s first book, Better WITH a Bag Than IN a Bag (2012) sets the tone for her memoir and the two that followed, Another Bag, Another Day (2015) and BAGs Around the World (2016). Her signature style is a mix of unflinching honesty, hearty humor, and inner strength.
Better WITH a Bag Than IN a Bag: year one as an ostomate
After years of struggling with diverticular disease, Jo-Ann had an emergency operation in 2011 and woke up from surgery with a stoma. Better With a Bag Than IN a Bag shares her conflicting feelings; happiness for being alive, along with confusion and anxiety about her new life with a colostomy. For Jo-Ann, making a conscious decision to remain positive is what got her through year one.
“A person’s attitude is a great factor in gaining confidence and obtaining desired results. My ally throughout my whole life in good times and bad has always been my attitude.”
Together with her husband, children and what she calls “a village to sustain me” (doctors, nurses, friends and neighbors), Jo-Ann describes the ups and downs of recovery. From naming her stoma Percy and figuring out which pouching system would work best, to finding healing in art and her first trip to Florida post-surgery, Jo-Ann lets readers in on her first year of living with a colostomy. With a stream-of-consciousness style and dry sense of humor, you'll feel an instant connection.
Another Bag, Another Day: conversations with a new friend
Even though Jo-Ann’s overall message is one of positivity, she does not hold back in her second book when describing life with Percy, her stoma and new best friend. Shortly after her one-year stomaversary, Jo-Ann is diagnosed with a parastomal hernia and struggles with several long-term side effects of diverticular disease (which had gone undiagnosed for many years). Preparing physically and mentally for another surgery, Jo-Ann reflects on her life, family, and connecting with other ostomates at Ostomy Canada Society and online. This time around, Percy gets a voice. Their interaction ranges from deep thoughts to funny commentaries, like when he describes himself as holding an “EoL degree in Poopology" (EoL: Experience of Life). Another Bag, Another Day has an appendix which lists support groups and a glossary of medical terms. She also gives practical advice for ostomates, such as how to deal with pouch leaks and fashion tips.
BAGs Around the World: a collection of blog posts
While her first two books focused mostly on Jo-Ann’s recovery and learning phases, BAGs Around the World is probably her most personal. She muses on the worldwide community of ostomates and viewpoints on different ways in which awareness can be created. She celebrates the arrival of grandchildren, shares photos of her travels, and of course, there are jokes. Jo-Ann's devotion to family is visible throughout her writing, as she continuously reminds us about the importance of connection. In the book, she also shares stories about ostomates from around the world, such as Lizzie who started the first ostomy support group in Zimbabwe. You can read more about their journeys on The Ostomy Factor.
Jo-Ann’s books resonate with people because readers identify with truth. She’s brave enough to expose her own weaknesses, foibles, embarrassments, and yes, failures to the world. Jo-Ann is not just an inspiration; she also lifts others as she rises.
Find all of Jo-Ann L. Tremblay's books on our book club list.