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Anyone that suffers from Crohn’s disease, as Gill does, appreciates the lowly toilet for the vital commodity it is. I didn’t say ‘like’, I said appreciate. Two very different things.

She has been having some Crohn’s flare-ups of late and, as usual, described them to me in intimate detail. For any of you readers unfamiliar with the disease, do not rely on those television ads for your information. You know, the ones where a person in an airport or restaurant is looking around with mild distress written on their face, for the location of a washroom. The look should be one of downright PANIC and DESPAIR! They are experiencing massive cramps and are about to have a massive explosion, a shitstorm if you will. Think  an ongoing case of ‘Montezuma’s Revenge’ in extremis.

As she explained to me the graphic details of her latest bout, it took me back to her time living here with me. She was unemployed, stressed about her life and questionable prospects. Stress aggravates Crohn’s. So, of a morning, there we’d be: gazing clinically into the toilet. (This may seem weird, but she needed another, more objective opinion, as to what had just been produced from her colon. Was it worthy of a trip to the hospital? The doctor? Was she about to need part of her colon removed? Would she have to change her Profile on Match.com to ‘accessorizes well despite her colostomy bag’? Or: ‘accepts dinner dates only at restaurants with pristine bathrooms’?)

As a mother, I have become somewhat inured to the sight of disgusting bodily substances – baby poop, toddler poop, dog poop, vomit. I’ve seen it all. But the current mess in this toilet bowl defied description. It was runny, chunky, gelatinous, frothy, mucousy, lumpy, foamy, with a few rock-like pebbles thrown in for variety. How could all this come from one person at one time? From my poor, sick baby?

She was remarkably blasé about her disease – to the point where she looked more like a scientific researcher probing a lab sample than a person whose innards had just erupted into the toilet. She pointed: “There, Ma. See that bit at the back? It’s almost black. That’s bad. Black means it’s old, an internal bleed. What about that clump over there—the green stuff? And, oh, I hadn’t noticed that frothy bit before! Is it mucous? If I do say so myself, that’s impressive!”

I learned much about Crohn’s during her tenure here. So now, when she explains that she’s having a flare, I know precisely what she is dealing with. And I understand  her worry when she says, “I’m spending today cleaning my bathroom, Ma. This flat was so lovely and clean when I moved in…but I’m afraid today’s action put paid to that! I am heavily invested in bleach, toilet bowl cleaner, rubber gloves and I’m considering a Hazmat suit. Thoughts?”

“Well, I’d send you MY Hazmat gear, but it’s probably cheaper to buy it there…and your need is immediate, I’m guessing. Something not to be trusted to Canada Post or the Royal Mail. Have a nice day, dear.”