I had the honor and privilege of being invited to speak at an ostomy education event in Vancouver, BC for World Ostomy Day this past October 1st, 2016.
I was invited by the former Director of Ostomy Canada, Andrea Manson (who prefers to be called “Andy”) to speak about ostomy clothing, which I promptly agreed to!
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This trip was my first to British Columbia, and I was excited to see the natural beauty of this province on the other side of Canada – I was not disappointed!
I decided to pack fairly light for this trip since I was only going to be there a few days, so that meant no laptop or anything I didn’t think would be crucial for the presentation or visit in general.
My ostomy supplies were separated into two groups: my emergency supplies, which I would keep in my backpack everywhere I went, and my regular stock, which stayed in my carry-on luggage in my hotel room.
My emergency kit did not include scissors because I carried moldable wafers in that kit for convenience.
Sept 30th (Leaving for Vancouver)
The departing flight was scheduled to leave at 11am on Friday, Sept 30th, so my last appliance change was done the previous day.
I requested an Uber, who showed up within minutes(!) and I was off to the airport.
Toronto Pearson International Airport is pretty nice – not mind-blowing like some other airports, but it’s clean and comfortable. One thing I did notice is that the domestic flight process seems way more relaxed compared to international flights.
Security was super easy, and I didn’t mention my ostomy and was never asked about it – quite a bit different from my past experiences where full body scanners caught hidden stoma and where explosive residue tests were required!
The gate for my WestJet departure was simple, but not nearly as “advanced” as the one I was waiting at on past Delta flights. For starters, there were no iPads available to pass the time on, and there were also no charging ports to speak of. Oh well, I wasn’t waiting too long.
We took off on a Boeing 737-800, which is a medium-sized plane that has two rows of three seats. I was fortunate enough to have the window seat on this flight (which I was able to pick during my online check-in), so the view was stunning the entire way there.
I did use the bathroom once during the flight to Vancouver, not necessarily because I needed to, but more out of curiosity. My god, was the bathroom ever tiny!
Emptying my bag was a little challenging, mainly because there wasn’t even enough room to turn, let alone kneel! I did manage to use the bathroom without much trouble, but I’d hate to think of the challenges that anyone who is even slightly overweight might face in this tight space.
This flight did not have any screens on the back of the seats, and in-flight movies would have to be done from your phone or tablet, which is a little disappointing.
But I had such an incredible view that rather than watching movies I put on some music, fired up Google Maps (which I had pre-cached maps for) and turned on my GPS to see exactly where we were in the air.
Note that not all airlines permit the use of GPS during flights. WestJet happens to be one that doesn’t explicitly ban them (http://gpsinformation.net/airgps/airgps.htm).
Flying across Canada was such a beautiful experience. I was blown away but all the farmland we have (most of which is used to grow food for livestock, not us), and it was cool to spot small towns and cities while tracking my flight on Google Maps.
As we flew over the Rocky Mountains, and into BC, I realized how much of Canada’s natural beauty I was missing by living in the Toronto area!
The mountains were surreal, and I can’t imagine how amazing it would be to hike over and around them – maybe some day I will :)
After about 4.5 hours, we landed at Vancouver International Airport, but not before catching a birds-eye view of the Greater Vancouver Area.
As beautiful as the scenery is in the area, I can’t help but notice how much industry dominates this landscape.
Andy picked me up at the airport, which honestly reminds of the casinos we have here because of all the native artwork, and we headed off to see her clinic.
The Ostomy Care & Supplies Centre, which was founded by Andy’s mother, Helen Manson, is located in New Westminster, BC not very far from the airport.
Andy took me for a tour and introduced me to the other nurses there. She showed me a display case full of older ostomy appliances, many of which were made by hand out of necessity. It really hit me that I’m extremely fortunate to have access to the supplies that I do. I can’t imagine wearing an improvised ostomy appliance made of spare parts found around the home.
She also showed me some of the products they carry, and I picked up on a few brands that I wasn’t familiar with.
I will say that this kind of ostomy clinic is unique, and I’m not even sure we have anything like it in the Toronto area, but I’m so glad that ostomates in the Vancouver area have access to such an amazing team of nurses who really do care about their patients.
After my visit to the clinic, Andy and I headed to Grouse Mountain in North Vancouver.
Grouse Mountain is such a beautiful place that offers a lot of things to do.
We took a 6-minute long cable car, called the Skyride, up to the Peak Chalet at 2800 ft up. The view from up there is amazing, and I’m sure there are many sunrises and sunsets to be enjoyed through the year from that height.
We walked around and got to see Grinder and Coola, two grizzly bears that make their home on the mountain’s wildlife refuge. Both bears were found as orphans in 2001 and have lived there ever since.
It’s pretty incredible how large these animals are, and even more so when you consider they aren’t even the largest of the bears out there!
After spending time watching the grizzlies, we headed over to watch a lumberjack show, which was really entertaining. It’s pretty obvious that these guys love what they do!
We said goodbye to the mountain and took another beautiful cable car ride down.
For dinner, we decided to check out a small vegan Vietnamese restaurant called Paradise. And it certainly was!
It’s so nice to find an entirely vegan restaurant because I can literally close my eyes and pick something from the menu without worrying about what’s in it.
We decided on “#40”, which is the vegan “chicken” and red rice, along with a salad and tofu (which is more like coleslaw). Andy ordered a soup, and we shared everything since the serving sizes were quite large.
The meal was so delicious, and I wish I had a place like this near my house. If you’re in Burnaby, I highly suggest trying this place out!
After dinner, Andy dropped me off at the hotel I was staying at. I was lucky enough to have been upgraded to their “king suite”, which had an office area, a small “living room” and bedroom. Sweet!
After having a shower and changing my appliance I decided to watch a few movies before bed.
The great thing about the hotel I was staying at is that the education event was being held just a few floors down.
Oct 1st, 2016 (Event Day)
I made my way to the event during registration so I could check out the vendors who were there, chat a bit, and meet with Brandee who I would be presenting with!
I’ve never met Brandee before, and I’m glad I had the chance to work with her on this presentation. It was nice to see what other products she offered through her company Joeies as she had a table set up for the event.
Our presentation started at 10:30am, and we spoke about clothing options for ostomates. It was so amazing to be able to speak to what I estimate to be around 250 people about ostomies!
I stayed until the event was over, and I had a chance to speak with reps from B. Braun, ConvaTec, Ostabelt, and others.
I also had a chance to talk with fans of my website and YouTube channel after the event. It’s always wonderful to hear from people and to hear what’s helped them through their journey.
For dinner, Andy took me and a few of the ET Nurses she works with (and their spouses) to a place called Nuba in Gastown.
Before going to Nuba, we walked around town for a bit and I got to see more of Vancouver.
Now, Nuba is a Lebanese restaurant that serves many vegan dishes. I was totally blown away by their food, starting with the ginger beer they served!
We ended up ordering a platter of mixed dishes like “Crispy cauliflower tossed with lemon and sea salt, served with tahini”, their Garden Falafel, hummus and more!
It was so delicious, and I’d love to learn to make recipes like this!
After dinner, Andy drove me around town, showing more of the city. We also had a chance to visit Stanley Park, where I was able to snap off a few photos before it got too dark.
Before long, it was time to get back to the hotel where I watched a few more movies before going to bed.
Oct 2nd (Going home)
My flight out was scheduled for just after 11am, so it was an early morning for me. Andy drove me to the airport where I got to see the mountains once more on our drive there.
I thanked her and left for my gate. My flight home once again had me at a window seat, which I was really happy about.
I was able to take more photos and videos of the flight home and enjoyed the scenery for the entire flight.
Toronto was rainy as we landed, but I was happy to be home again. Of course, I was totally looking out for Canada’s Wonderland, which I did catch a glimpse of on our descent ;)
Overall, this was an awesome trip that had me meeting so many wonderful people!
- Brandees company Joeies can be found at
http://joeies.com/(Unfortunately, the company has closed down).
- Ostomy Care & Supply Centre in New Westminster, BC can be found at http://www.myostomycare.com/
- Paradise Vegan Vietnamese Restaurant in Burnaby, BC can be found at http://paradisevegetarian.com/
- Nuba Lebanese Restaurant has several locations in the Vancouver area and can be found at http://www.nuba.ca/