In case you were wondering, this photo has nothing to do with anything. I was just scrambling to find a picture, in my photo archives, for today's post! (This door-knocker picture was taken in Orange, where today's story takes place...) Note: the next edition will go out on Monday....
couper la parole (koo pay lah pah rhohl)
: to interrupt a person who is speaking
Excusez-moi, je vous ai coupé la parole.
Excuse me, I interrupted you.
A Day in a French Life... Kristin Espinasse
I left the surgeon's office feeling more uncertain than ever. Perhaps this doubt had to do with a certain certainty: I had gone into the consultation with a plan of my own and, almost as soon as the doctor began talking, I cut him off. How stupid: je lui ai coupé la parole!
And we had been off to such a good start! I had nodded bonjour as I watched the white-smocked chirurgien walk across the office, dossier en main, and take his place behind a massive bureau. True, I was a little surprised by his youth--and it brought me back to the realization that middle age has indeed hit when doctors and surgeons begin looking younger than you! (and when, in fact, they are younger than you!)
"Bonjour, Madame. Que puis-je faire pour vous?" the doctor greeted me. I noticed his smooth skin--it had that "healthy glow".
In answer to the doctor's question, I pointed to the growth on my forehead and tried to remember the translation for the diagnosis given by my dermatologist: "J'ai un basil.. baso... basilo.... Uh, c'est un carcinome."
"How long have you had this?" he questioned, his eyes crossing as they narrowed onto the bump in the center of my forehead.
"About a year... I think."
"...And there's another on my nose..." I pointed to the second growth, the one my dermato said we'd keep our eyes on--for its location made it a little more complicated to remove.
"I see..." the doctor nodded his head.
"How will you remove these?" I asked, filling in the silence that followed. "That is, do you think the second one should be taken out?"
The doctor began to explain that he would remove the first one by excision.
"Oui, oui..." I chimed in, remembering my crash course on basal cell carcinoma (I'd surfed the net, in a frenzy). Positively brimming with knowledge I informed the doctor: "You'll take out a bit of skin... examine it... and take out some more--until all the bad cells are removed. C'est ça?"
When I learned that the growth would be removed all in one go, I became suspicious. Wasn't there a better, less intrusive, way? "Have you heard of Mohs?" I questioned. "You know, la chirurgie de Mohs?"
The doctor confirmed that he was familiar with it, had even used it in the past, but that he no longer practiced the "little by little" method; instead, a large section of skin would be excised. To illustrate this, he took out a piece of paper and drew an imperfect circle (representing the growth). Next, he drew an imperfect rectangle around that... and filled in the area between the circle and rectangle with dots. The dots represented traces of bad cells, or how far the carcinoma might have traveled.
I thought about the size of the excision. "But what about scars?"
"There will be scars, Madame!" the doctor's response was abrupt, and I sensed that my tendency to worry-obsess was beginning to show. For a moment, I regretted the formal atmosphere... how much more at ease I might be, if we were, say, at a dinner party. I might be seated next to the surgeon, who would have had, ideally, "one too many" or "un de trop". Formalities aside, I might then pour out my obsessional heart: asking, with abandon, every absurd question currently plaguing me. What's more, the surgeon, instead of responding so abruptly, might loosen his tie and answer along these lines: "Don't worry about the scars, babe, I'll take care of them!" On second thought, this scenario was even less comforting than the first...
"But can you make little scars?" I repeated, returning to the present moment.
With this, the doctor became vague, answering my question with a fact: "I do not usually operate for skin cancer on people your age. My patients are much older." (I gathered that older people did not mind the scars?...) I remembered all of the elderly patients whom I sat next to in the salle d'attente (I had passed the time trying to guess their ailments, deciding that the fair-skinned woman across from me might have a carcinoma, that the full-bellied man beside me was there for a digestive difficulty, and the little ladies with the plastered hair to my right... well I hadn't gotten yet to their diagnosis... when the doctor called on me. But the truth was the truth: none of them had put on mascara that morning, which led me to suspect that a scar on the forehead wouldn't upset their aesthetic universe.)
Speaking of the universe of aesthetics, my next question centered on the growth on the side of my nose.
The doctor's eyes began to cross, once again, as they narrowed in on my nose. He nodded his conclusion: it was a delicate area and there would be risks. The doctor illustrated this by placing his finger at the tip of his nose... and pushing it up. I sat staring into his nasal passage.
"Stitches might pull at the skin, causing the tip of the nose to lift--like this!" he warned. "I would have to leave part of the wound open (to heal on its own), to prevent this."
I studied the doctor's momentarily disfigured nose. Mine might be more permanent! That is when the words "plastic surgeon" appeared in my mind's eye. This brought me to my next question, more of a confirmation:
"But you are a "chirurgien digestif", n'est-ce pas? What exactly is a digestif surgeon?"
With that, the young doctor patted his stomach, and spoke, for the first time, in English: "Guts, Madame!"
So "guts", or the digestive tract, was his specialty...
"Oui, je vois..." And I did understand, clearly--though I was more disillusioned than ever. Why would a guts surgeon work on my gueule, or face?
I regretted the direction in which my thoughts were headed. And I wished I hadn't talked so much (I'm afraid all that "education" I got on the internet was no help with the current consultation). And, though the doctor's words did not inspire confidence--due, in part, to my own fixed mindset!--I did take away some very good advice... even if I've taken it out of context... yes, in the murky months to come, in which I'll need to decide on a course of treatment, I would do well to listen to the doctor's words: Guts, Madame!
Post Note: last night I went back to my internet searching and learned that the doctors proposed method ("standard surgical excision") is, in fact, the "preferred method" (before Moh's). I felt a little better, and will now think about going back for surgery. Meantime, it won't hurt to have another consultation with another doctor. En avant! Onward march!
Corrections, comments, and stories of your own are welcome here, in the comments box.
Related story: "Peau": about my visit to the French dermatologist.
Selected French Vocabulary
je lui ai coupé la parole = I cut him off (in speech)
bonjour = hello
le chirurgien, la chirurgienne = surgeon
le dossier en main = file in hand
que puisse-je faire pour vous? = how can I help you?
dermato (dermatologue) = dermatologist
la salle d'attente = the waiting room
The classic Bescherelle, the complete guide to French verb conjugation. Read the five-star reviews, and order, here.
A scene from the town of Faucon, not far from Vaison la Romaine. Photo taken two years ago... during a photo périple. Read about another photo journey here, in an inspiring stroll I took through the town of Rochegude. Click here to read the post "SAISIR".
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety