Ever since my most recent thwarted colonoscopy (thwarted in the end because of a kidney stone, I believe), I’ve taken to referring to my Crohn’s disease as Jeff. L’il Sis started it off by posting on my Facebook page a picture of the whale from The Simpsons and wishing me luck in getting Jerkface Jeff back into the sea.
Since then, my colleagues at work, friends, and family, all just simply refer to any Crohn’s related activity as Jeff. As in, Jeff’s not feeling well today. Or Jeff sounds funny, or Jeff is such a jerk. It’s much easier that getting into the details of the disease and its symptoms. It makes alerting my office to my whereabouts very simple: all I need to do is text my boss Jeff and she knows I’m working from home. Efficient.
Anyhow, of course it’s tricky to keep Jeff in good working order when faced with the bounty of produce in Southwestern Ontario in summer. There is a pornographic array of fruits and vegetables on display, some of which I can’t get in the UK. Peaches, obviously, sweet corn on the cob, tomatoes (well, I can get these things but if you’re from a place where they grow natively then you wouldn’t recognise them if you saw them in a UK supermarket – seriously, myself, an Italian friend and a South African friend have all stood in front of the peaches with deep confusion). Anyhow the point being that I’m on a three-week fruit and veggie bender. Which Jeff does not totally care for, being in no way able to handle a high-fibre diet.
Each time I rush to the bathroom in the morning, The Mom, weirdly, recalls with fondness the year-and-a-half I spent here after my PhD wherein I suffered with the worst flare-up I’ve ever had. It’s a strange thing to consider. I know she doesn’t miss the days when I was deathly ill, but it is unusual to be met with a look of nostalgia when one emerges from the bathroom. “Ah,” The Mom might say. “Just like the good old days.”
And I know of course that she means the time when I lived here, and not the Crohn’s, however, they go hand in hand. And in a funny way I think there’s something about the sense of drama a Crohn’s flare can bring that speaks to something deep in The Mom’s psyche. The will-she or won’t-she drama of finding a toilet in time. The race through traffic to get to a bathroom. I’m sure there are other, more sensible ways to conduct one’s self, however, I’ve not yet come across them.
When I went into Toronto this year to visit some old friends, one of them had been suffering from a stomach bug that symptomatically was not unlike a Crohn’s flare. She was exhausted, hungry, and had spent more time than she knew possible in the toilet. How is it that you function like this? How do you have any energy? I shrugged, I’ve no idea how I function in those circumstances, except to say that I function as little as possible. But going through this has led to some discoveries about public toilets: we need some and they need to not be gross or cost money. This has also led me to create a mental map of free to use or at least sympathetic small business owners in the downtown core of Toronto, most of central London, Glasgow, Barcelona, Paris, etc. Wherever I’ve been, there is a subsequent map of available bathrooms. This came in handy as my friend wasn’t feeling her best.
It’s this sort of thing that, when I relay it to The Mom that she thinks sounds a bit like a weird super power. You can see she wants to brag about it without wanting to belabour the fact that I have an annoying and potentially life-chanigng disease. The Mom is rather impressed at my ability to find a bathroom anytime, anywhere.
And since I’ve started to refer to my disease simply as Jeff – side note: I highly recommend naming your ailment as you would a pet. Anthropomorphise the shit out of it – it’s way more fun that this whole my Crorhn’s, my arthritis business. Give it a name and turn it into your douchebag friend that you can’t get rid of. Make it into a weird character. It’s much more fun. Though, don’t do this in front of a doctor who doesn’t have a good sense of humour.
So, as the Mom engages in a bit of nostalgia, as we drive around town, now and I again I grip my belly and say, Oh, Jeff! And The Mom now takes that as a signal to find the nearest bathroom. Easier to say, oh now, ten Jeffs today, than ten poos today. It’s the closest we’ll get to mustering any dignity from the situation.