Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Today I Am A Man
Today's the day for Fete de la Musique in France. A few years back I wrote about about how Eric and I rented an electrogenerator and spent the day and night traveling around the area, setting up and playing for the few. A memorable experience but a one-time only thing.
I noticed this year what was supposed to be a day of musical anarchy has gotten even more and more organized - June 21 falls on a Tuesday, so posters and flyers advertise Fete de la Musique events for the 18th and the 25th because those are Saturdays and people are more likely to go out. C'mon, go nuts for a change, open the shutters and leave your house on a Tuesday night! Maybe in Paris but not in the countryside. So what's the point of this thing again?
We could have fired up the old electrogen today, but I'm recovering from Mohs surgery and that's a good excuse, right? I'd been fretting about this skin cancer thing - BCC, the non-deadly kind. Just a tiny little pore on the side of my nose that the dermatologist with the lousy bedside manner biopsied and sent me for surgery. I've had a hell of a time finding the most effective kind in France. Asking various doctors about what is absolutely standard these days (this is for surgery on the face, where conserving as much tissue as possible is what you'd hope for) I was told - nope, not in France. I asked if it was because the complexions are heartier, less pale, so less incidence of skin cancer? Not at all. It's socialized medicine. Mohs is too costly.
Going to the doctor in France is a mix of brusqueness and care that it is hard to imagine in the US, where health care is huge business. If they're going to sock you with a bill they better provide some service. It all works very differently here. The first time we saw a doctor for a checkup, I couldn't believe it when I called for an appointment - "Can you come in...tomorrow morning?" Expecting a delay of several weeks, I figured this doctor must not have any patients, but that's just standard. She took so much time with each patient, I wondered if perhaps she was charging by the hour. Then it came time to pay and we gave her our euros and she pulled a little pouch out from her desk and made change. I double-checked that there was hand soap at the sink, thinking of her handling money all day. When she retired, I called asking if she had any recommendations, anyone who was handling her patients now, taking over the practice? No. Nope, sorry, can't help you there.
Everything's covered, or almost covered, by the system. But when you get a gynecological exam or mammogram, you the patient are not covered - literally: no robe, no sheet, just drop your clothes right there in a corridor. But if you need a taxi, or a nurse to visit you at home - just call! It's taken care of.
I ended up finding a hospital in Bordeaux that does Mohs surgery so we drove there yesterday morning. I'd called beforehand, just trying to verify that I had an appointment, and did I need to know anything - this is surgery we're talking about. Nothing but irritation from the nurses.
But when I was under the knife (and it was a knife and it was awful and I'll never go through anything like that again without being unconscious. That option was not available to me nor were tranquilizers which would have been welcome. I can understand much better now the idea of cardiac arrest on the operating table. I prayed, I vowed to be a force for good, I imagined myself a soldier on a Civil War battlefield and thought "this has to be better than that." I apologized to the nurse for being anxious. "Vous avez raison" she said - you've got reason to be - I'm not sure if that made me feel better or worse) anyway, the nurse was holding my hand and being so sweet. The doctor took the whole day with me in between sending to the lab. He told me several times I'd done the right thing because the cancer was very deep. He stitched me up and left me so swathed in bandages I can only think of that poster of the Phantom of the Opera. They gave me a private room to lay down in in between cutting and sewing and for Eric to wait in. I told him after it was one of the worst days of my life but at least he was there to share it with.
So no Fete de la Musique today. I hope it's alright to write about this. I hope the stitches will be okay and the scar will fade or if it doesn't that I'll look dangerous in a chic way. Or chic in a dangerous way. The nurse is coming over tomorrow. In some rite of passage I never wanted (who does?), today I am a man.