She’s So Brave – Cally Arsenault
Tell us about yourself.
I’m Cally Arsenault. Blood type… unknown. I’m 27 years old. Recently 27. Single… put that in the blog.
Looking for someone that likes dogs… pina coladas. And I want a stay at home dad.
I am one busy bee. My life is working. I work for (JM Photography) full time, and recently started photography. I am also now in month three of managing a small landscaping company. I work just over 70 hours a week. 13 hours a day, and weekend work is still a reality right now too.
So yes, I work!
I am being paid right now, for the record.
You’re the only client we’ve ever had to pay to photograph.
So what do you like to do?
I hang out with my pals, I like to dance, I like to go out. I like to travel. I just went to Thailand with my best gal pal Darcy, and Australia where my brother lives. I’m going to Disney World soon. (It’s) lots of fun getting out of town.
And your tattoos?
I enjoy getting tattoos. I guess the best piece of work is the newest one on my calf, which is a hand with some daggers. The most emotionally attached one is my thigh piece, it’s a ribcage with intestines and stuff like that.
What do you know, a good segue into my story!
So now, why don’t you tell us the bravest thing you’ve ever done?
I guess it’s more luck than bravery.
I cheated death twice. So that was good. Who knew that death was that easy to cheat? He kinda sucks at his job.
I was diagnosed with Crohn’s when I was 20. In February. I remember that vividly because my father brought me a heart shaped pizza (because it was Valentine’s). My mother has Crohn’s also, so I guess the ‘being diagnosed’ part wasn’t scary.
I decided to go drug free because my mother is, and that turned out to be the wrong choice. Six months after (my diagnosis) and trying to go drug free, I collapsed at work. (I) took a very exciting ambulance ride, so that was cool, not many people can say they’ve done that. Although they didn’t put on the flashing lights for me, so I don’t think it counts.
I got admitted right away, and they tried to treat it with steroids. It didn’t work out for me. They decided to operate. That was terrifying. But it was fine, and I woke up fine, everything was great, I was healing, starting to walk again, everything was cool.
Five days after that surgery I was in the worst pain of my life, maxed out on my pain meds. My mom stayed in the hospital with me that night because I was in so much pain.
Cally stops for a moment.
You talk about it and feel it again.
I had a (bad) night. The nurses said “Don’t worry about it, your doctor is coming tomorrow and he’ll figure it out.”
Fast forward to the next morning. My surgeon wasn’t actually there that day, so I had a surgeon that had never seen me before. He looked at me for one second and said “Oh it’s fine. It’s just your bowels starting again… no big deal.”
Bless my mother’s heart, she went and found a nurse after that doctor left, and told them to “find another doctor to look at my daughter. Right now.” And bless that nurse’s soul also, because she came in and (agreed).
Another doctor came looked at me, “This isn’t ok.” So I got some X-rays.
By this point i was in so much pain that someone had (help me with the X-ray’s), because I couldn’t hold up my arms.
Cally returned to her room, and was immediately rushed into surgery.
I guess where they had put me back together as I had fallen apart and I was going septic.
I was excited to go back to surgery because I was in so much pain. I (didn’t) even care, just put me out of my misery.
I woke up with a temporary ileostomy, where you basically poop through your tummy, so I mean, that was a change.
I hated it at first. I refused to look at it. The nurses would get mad at me because I wouldn’t deal with it. I think it takes time to get used to being an alien.
But anyways, I got healthier. Because I went septic, (the place) they cut me open had to heal (like that), so I don’t have a belly button anymore. I have a crater. Still trying to think of a funny tattoo to put around my stomach.
(I was) super sick, obviously. Left the hospital with a giant hole and a drainage tube in my stomach. I was attached to a little vacuum that I carried around to try and close the hole. I was in rough shape.
Exactly a week after being released, my surgeon had requested I come back in (for a check up). Everything was good. He looked at my hole and it was fine. Then as I was about to leave he asked, “Is anything else bothering you?”
I had a tiny little pain in my side, which compared to everything else was nothing.
Cally insisted it was nothing, but her doctor suggested they check it out.
I went for a CAT scan, which I was (annoyed) about more than anything else, because it was just an inconvenience on my life.
I was just about to leave the hospital because I came out and no one said anything to me. My dad and I wanted to get out of there. We were just upset.
As they walked out the door, her name came over the prompter. She looked down at her phone to see 20 missed calls.
Back in her doctor’s office, he handed her a box of tissues. “You’re gonna need these.”
At this point I was such an emotional wreck. “Am I dying?”
“No, but you would have.” And he put up two X-rays of my lungs, and I had something like, 20 blood clots (in them). I just didn’t notice that I was becoming short of breath, because I was so inactive, because I was in so much pain at the time.
Luckily he was attentive enough to notice. He told me (I) would literally have gotten home and died (that day), because (I) would have stopped breathing and nothing would have fixed it. So bless his soul.
I was readmitted to the hospital, had to spend another week getting blood thinners. I had to get to a point of not being able to breath on my own before the blood thinners kicked in and I was okay again.
I missed a year of school. Took a year off. It took awhile to get back on (my) feet. And then I had to have another surgery to become human again.
No complications for that surgery, so that was good.
How has it changed you?
Dealing with your own mortality, in general, is changing. I was 21 going through that, so I was a baby. And I think being told you’re gonna die once is already really scary, but to make it out of the other end of that twice… I feel really lucky.
I’m not a religious person. Sometimes I don’t understand why I’m so lucky. I think when you’re that lucky, and survive something… you feel like you should do something really great with your life. And there should be a reason why you’re here all of the sudden. You have more respect for your life, and what you bring to the table, and who you are as a person.
I went back to school for one semester…
A plane flies over loudly interrupting, and Cally laughs.
(I thought) “Why am I sitting in a classroom?”
I almost died twice and hadn’t done anything I wanted to do yet, so I immediately dropped out and went traveling. I guess it changes you like that too. You start to appreciate the little things and build your life differently than someone who hasn’t had that kind of a scare.
Thanks for making me cry.
View the Online Gallery
An online gallery of all her images is available for the next 30 days. From the online gallery you are able to favourite images, order prints and share the gallery with your family and friends. The gallery can be accessed via the link below and you can contact Cally directly for her secure password.
We are so fortunate to have had the opportunity to photograph Cally for She’s So Brave and we thank her for sharing her story of bravery with us!
Images by Calgary Portrait Photographer JM Photography © 2017
Some of my Favourite Photos from Cally’s Session
Cally’s Portrait Session Details
Date | 10.19.17
Photos by Jeremy Martel
Editing by Kelly Anne Steel
Blog written by Jenna Anderson
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