Compassion and Cat (c) Kristin Espinasse

Saperlipopette! Not a cat in the house (well, apart from this one... see her in the lower window pane?) I suspect readership may have... strayed... as a result of these ongoing "derma dialogues"... but I'll stick to my guns, as any woman from the wild west would... and continue to tell my story. Meantime, I'm offering an alternative read! Today meet the vamp who showed up at my wedding: click here to read "Garce"! ...And for you hospital whores who remain, follow me now to the sexy surgery... in the following story!

le dodo (doh doh)

    : childspeak for "sleep"

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc say these French words: Download MP3 or Wav file

Fais dodo, 'Colas mon petit frère...
Go to sleep (Nicholas), my little brother...

                                             -from a well-known comptine, or nursery rhyme


A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

The Schnozzle Scheme

The warm blanket that Madonna of the Gurney had offered me... was plucked off, rather precipitously, right before the doors of the "ice block" flew open! Wheeled briskly forth like that, I entered the bloc opératoire.  I noticed how narrow and cluttered the room was, and High-heeled Simone was right: it was freezing inside

I recognized Nurse Swagger, who returned in his new role of electrode engineer (to be sure, he stuck three or four of the electric conductors across my chest, before setting an oxygen mask over my mouth and my nose. I sensed how the mask sat crooked and this disequilibrium begged to be set straight. I began scrunching my nose in an attempt to reposition the oxygen mask... only, my efforts attracted the attention of Nurse Swagger, who soon became suspicious of my fantastical facial ticks....

"Il y a un problème?" he asked, and his answer was to push the mask farther to the side, defeating my silent, painstaking efforts to reroute the apparatus.

But I wanted all that oxygen, so as soon as Nurse Swagger turned his back I began the nose-scrunching scheme all over again, in time to coax that mask back over, for the full effect (as for just what effect that was, well, in my mind excess oxygen = some kind of nirvana: and nirvana seemed a better place to be than on a hospital gurney, shivering).

I was gulping down air like a tipsy astronaut-sailor when the second nurse appeared, with an announcement: "Je vais vous endormir." As her words fell off I felt pressure near my wrist... I recognized the feeling; it was the tube being connected into my arm. Next, I sensed a warm thick flow of quelque chose.

Suddenly the air, which I had been sucking in with abandon (for just how often does one get the chance to breathe pure oxygen?) ... suddenly that intoxicating air... became just that: toxic! Toxic Imposter Air! It seemed a foreign current had entered into the air supply! Alarmed, I thought to signal the malfunction to Nurse Swagger, who was slightly friendlier than whoever had just hooked up the faulty anesthesia.

...Anesthesia... that's when it occurred to me that there might be a connection between that warm flush in my arm... and this rush of seemingly toxic air in my mask. Surely this was the anesthesia coming into effect? I braced myself as one might right before hitting a wall. And if a wall ever did appear, I don't remember it.


"I"ve just given you a dose of morphine." I woke to the nurse's words, and to a blurry room. I reached up and patted my forehead, which was smooth. I could just feel the edges of the bandage, I didn't dare navigate to the center of  wound, over which surgical glue had been used. I tried to sit up. I felt that giddy. I felt that good.

I became aware of  a row of beds beside mine, and realized that the nurse's words, about morphine, were for the woman on the gurney beside mine. And it hit me, then, just how much I had to be thankful for.


Post note: As the dermatologist said (during that first visit), regarding my basal-cell carcinoma: "If you have to get cancer, this is the best kind to get!" Classified as "nonmelanoma", one feels extravagant even calling it "skin cancer"? That said, basal-cell carcinomas are treated as carefully as "the bad kind", which may explain why surgery is so invasive.... As one doctor put it: the spot you see on top of your skin, may be only the tip of the iceberg! If you missed the post-op photo, those who are not fainthearted may see it here.

Le Coin Commentaires
Corrections, questions, or stories of your own are welcome here in the comments box

To read all the chapters in the skin cancer chronicles, click here.... and remember to stay in the shade!

For those of you who have stuck by to read these hospital chronicles, merci beaucoup! I hope you will now take a minute to read the alternative story I posted (at the top of this letter) about the Panther from Paris... or the ex-girlfriend guest at my marriage! Click here and enjoy.


French Vocabulary

saperlipopette ( click here) = gadzooks!

le bloc opératoire = the operating theater

je vais vous endormir = I am going to put you to sleep

quelque chose = something


Exercises in French Phonics
Exercises in French Phonics is... 
" a great book for learning French pronunciation"
"useful and practical"
"high quality material, good value for your money" --from Amazon customer reviews. Order your copy here.



Bar toutous

Le Bar à Toutous. A "dog bar" in Sarrians... really just a bowl of water that the thoughtful employees (at the tourist office, here) set out for the furry drifters. This photo comes from the archives, from the post on "Childspeak" from which today's word "dodo" and the word in this picture "totous" are taken. Click here to discover some fun French words... from out of the mouth of babes!


Capture plein écran 02082011 154241French music, or passive language learning... Relax back and listen to these vocab-rich songs. Order this "Paris" compilation


grape wine harvest in france with tractor boots harvester, winemaker, buckets, jean-marc
And a Message from the Chef himself: Chief Grape: Find our wines in the US and in many other countries thanks to this link. Thanks for your support!

When you shop at Amazon via the following links, you help support this free French language journal—at no extra cost to you. You can buy one of the products, below, or surf Amazon for something completely different. Merci beaucoup!

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Julie F in St. Louis, MO

I hope you're beginning to feel the effects of healing by now, that it's to the point you can look at yourself in the mirror again. I love those warm blankets you get in a hospital. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could buy home blanket microwaves to use in the winter as we crawl into bed?

As for the other story, your words of wisdom from great-grandfather Gordon are priceless. My kids could still, at their age, benefit from hearing it once or twice.

gail bingenheimer

Suintement des mots évaporés , miasme après miasme, sous ces mèmes pierres d'ombre, flottant dans des corricors d'eau. Mots libérés à la suite de mon coprs de vieille scupteuae, me faisant sillon dans l'ambulance qui fonce. Mots en accords electrisés de hululements du harem, mots transparents de vapeaurs, d'échos.....

Bill in St. Paul

Yes, those warm blankets are great as I had to get a CT scan last week for a kidney stone (which I had apparently already passed). I'm surprised that they didn't leave the blanket on you when you went into surgery since the operation was on your forehead. When do we, your faithful readers, get to see the progress on the healing?


I've been with you throughout, Kristen. I just haven't posted anything. You're a good writer, and I like reading your blog no matter what you write about.

Jeanne in Oregon

I agree with JolleyG ... I like whatever you choose to write. Following every surgical event in my life, I wanted to share those memories with anyone willing to listen. My best surgery story .. as a cute little nurse assisted the handsome young intern stitching me up following the birth of my first child, he asked her out on a date! I felt like a peeping Tom witnessing their flirtation in the operating room.

Karen Whitcome (Towson, MD. USA)

I love how your words transport us directly to and allow us to share in your every emotion and experience.

Speaking of words, today I thoroughly enjoyed "saperlipoppet" - which sounds British when I try to say it. I could use a good sound-bite from a compliant Espinasse teenager. Not a volunteer in sight these days, is there? :o)

re: "OWCH. When I look back on your wedding picture, you are so angelic and graceful. I'm sure Ms Owch could easily see how you won his heart. Thanks for taking us back in time.


Dear Kristen, as someone else who has spent the last 3 months dealing with skin cancer surgeries (all done and taken care of now :-)), I really appreciate these stories, the finding of interest and humor in situations which must be nerve wracking...thank you for your words!


We are not bored or turned off by your descriptions of your hospital experience. How else would we gain insight into what it's like to be in a French hospital? Keep writing about it. You are educating us.


Good on you, Kristen, for sharing ALL of your life with us. Keeping you in my prayers.

Susie Kaylor

Bonjour Kristen...I have enjoyed reading about your French skin surgery. I have had Mohs surgery five times here in Tucson...on my nose and above my eyebrow. Know exactly what you have been through....although your account sounds MUCH more dramatic than my memory of Mohs serves me.

Anyway I hope your recovery has been perfect and that, as I have learned, you can see NO evidence of the evil slice taken out of your face.

Regards...Susie Kaylor, Tucson

Jimm Hughey

Bravo Madame Espinasse!
Votre histoire est charmante et votre écriture s'améliore avec chaque mot!
OK, so i cheated and used my translator for the Francais sentence. But I LOVE your story of le bloc opératoire. As a hospital Pharmacist with many years working with patients, I love your story from your side.
Would love to see follow-up pictures of your wound's healing. You cannot tell when my surgery was done (twice). Merci,
Jimm Hughey, M.S.Pharm, CA

Joy O'Neill

I have thoroughly enjoyed your hospital stories - no need to apologize! They are enthralling, actually, in learning how medical systems and procedures and people are the same and yet different in different parts of the world. I hope you continue to recover nicely. Thank you for keeping up the great work while you get better. I too would love to see follow up pictures as the wound heals.


Kristin, I'm glad you are sharing your experience with skin cancer. The info about the disease and treatment that you are sharing will help someone in the future seek treatment with less fear.

Nancy V

Glad you are sharing and glad that you are feeling so much better. My experience taught me that it takes time to heal but it is all for the good.

Sandra MacDonald

Bonjour Kristin!

Thank you so much for sharing your story of skin cancer. My husband had a spot on his nose that became questionable, after two cryotherapy procedures his G.P. (my employer)
took a biopsy. It came back as Basal Cell Carcinoma, which is "the best kind of cancer to get!" if you're going to get it! The word CANCER is so scary no matter what kind it is!!! right?! But, we, too thank God that it's not a melanoma. He will be having MOH's surgery in January to remove the affected tissue and reconstructive surgery the following day, by a very good plastic surgeon. He has always felt his nose was too big, and hated it. He is so afraid that he's going to look awful when this is over and done. I'm trying to reassure him, but we have no idea how large an area we are talking about here, so yes, it's scary. He's freaked out, and I love him to bits and just want him to understand that whatever scars he's left with DO NOT MATTER TO ME! I'm more worried about his emotional well being than anything else, any advice? God Bless you for sharing this very personal journey.

Ma mere chantais: Fais dodo ma p'tite, ma p'tite, fais dodo, t'auras du l'eau-l'eau,
Maman est en haut, elle fais du gateau, Papa est en bas qui fais du chocolat...fais dodo......Was it the same in France as in Quebec?

Thanks again,


It sounds like things are continuing to go well, Kristen. You certainly have a way with words! Continued goodluck.

Jolley G. told me about this, knowing of my interest in France & wine, and I've just clicked on your list of stockists world wide. There isn't anything near me in Yorkshire, but amazingly there is a small shop in Woodside, California which is fairly near my family there, and 5 minutes from the first home my I had with my husband in 1957, and we shopped at that small market. It's called Robert's Market, & if they still stock your wines I'll certainly get some. In the various wine tasting groups I belong to we've had speakers on biodynamic & organic wines, and it's always been interesting.

Judy Feldman

I can't believe you remembered what happened before your anesthesia - and so well! You can make an amusing story out of anything! Hope you are feeling well, survived the vendange and healing nicely.

Amy Kortuem

You have such a storytelling gift, Kristin! I've read the saga of your surgery with interest - I can't be put off so easily by grouchy French nurses and nasty scars!

The photo of the cat and the crucifix is adorable. I make my cats pray sometimes. They hate it.

Lisa A., CA

I really loved the part about the facial ticks...hahaha that was great idea! :)

Your story is a great little peak into a French hospital...I loved the nurse on the phone with her lover...(5 à 7)too cute! Thanks for sharing your story!


Like JollyeG, I have been with you throughout, but rarely post. I'm sure for every person who takes the time to post, there are 20 readers who do not but who wouldn't miss your wonderfully interesting and detailed stories for the world.

As I've said before, I think it's a mistake to call basal cell cancer, and I also think the doctors are overreacting in the amount of tissue they remove.

You are fine, healthy and beautiful, and will make a speedy recovery. All of our thoughts and prayers are with you daily, but because you are young, strong and healthy you would recover beautifully no matter what! :)

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristin,
I agree with JolleyG also. It's something that you are dealing with and life isn't smooth and beautiful all the time. We all go through these bumps in life and we just have to deal with it the best way we know how. You are writing about it and I think it is brave of you to let us in on the parts of your life that aren't always so beautiful.

Cheryl Anderson

Yes indeed-------you still have your sense of humor and that helps the healing process. It all goes together. Someone should needle point a pillow with the words "I will not be defeated".
Love the hospital stories.
Soldier on!

Diana Goggin

Kristin, I (for one) have followed your hospital story avidly. I have a long history of skin cancer (grew up in Phoenix, Ariz. without sun protection back then). And I had an 11-day adventure in a French hospital a few years ago for surgery. I can relate to your happenings, and I have a few interesting ones of my own! However, all-in-all, I would not trade my hospital sojourn for anything. It makes a wonderful story to tell, and I enjoyed my stay so much. The French nurses (all male!) were wonderful to me, and the care I got was terrific. I tell everyone that if they ever need to go to a hospital, to go to France .

When I got back to California afterwards and had my first visit with the orthopedist here, he said the French surgeon had used two large pins for the broken bone, whereas in the U.S. the standard is 3 smaller ones. He says the French way is better. (Isn't it always? )


Love all your stories :-) Just know you are going to be fine!!


Our dear Kristin,
Your talent and beautiful writing always takes us along with you on all of your adventures, and the hospital/surgery was no exception.
Throughout this entire scary ordeal, you have given us ways to find humor and coping.
What an example you are!

Jennifer in OR

Thank you for sharing the journey, even the cuts and scars. How have your kids been through this ordeal?

Love "the cat and the crucifix" at the top of your post! The Paris CD you listed in this post? I purchased it a few weeks ago at a little shop in Newport on the Oregon Coast.

Have a bon weekend, chere Kristin!


Link to post op photo not working for me. Glad everything has gone well for you.


Nice to hear from Diana Goggin. I've had no personal experience, but have always heard very good things(from people who have had personal experiences) about the health care in France. I'm sure you are in very good hands.


Kristin, it's amazing how you share the account of a hospital experience with so much enthusiasm :) and especially, humor :).

I'm not sure which is a better experience - general anaesthesia or spinal. I got spinal during my last surgery, and although I was glad to be awake and conscious of everything around me in the 'bloc opératoire', I did get really nervous about a lot of things that I could 'perceive' :).

Stacy, Applegate, Oregon

You have managed to keep my interest and a smile on my face all the way through the hospital stories! Given my concern for you throughout this and my fear of hospitals, that is saying a lot in my book!

I’ve been so busy this past week between a remodel project and keeping up with my new puppy I haven’t had the time before this to sit down to read the entire week’s stories. Oops, just burnt the fresh caught salmon a friend gifted me…guess now it’ll go with the burnt rice! That’s what kind of week it’s been, thanks for always entertaining and inspiring me. Enjoyed reading the Owch story again :)

Susan Carter

I finally had a chance to catch up and have loved the way you have told this story, bringing many smiles to my face. Please let Jean Marc know that Music,Art,Wine,Love has gone out of business so I have lost my source for Rouge Bleu Wines in Orange County CA--we need a new source.

Marianne Rankin

Yes, the stories about French health care are interesting. Is health care in France nationalized, or (judging from a few words here and there in various posts) still private, or partly so?

I, too, liked the picture of the cat (we have two cats). Amy, how did you get your cats to pray? If they are in the mood, my cats come when called. Otherwise, they ignore me.

Danielle Jacques

Bonjour Kristin !
Je viens tout juste de découvrir votre site...,fameux ! J'ai également été opérée au bras pour un cancer de peau baso-cellulaire, il y a 2 ans. La cicatrice ne parait presque plus !!! Aucun problème depuis. Alors, keep on trucking, girl. This too shall pass !
Maple Grove QC Canada

Douglas R. Turgeon, MD

"Fais dodo" is a great Cajun term for light night zydeco music, food, drink & dance parties, sometimes in barns, where parents would bring their children along, who would fall asleep in the hay while Maman and Papa would continue dancing into the night. Also a Cajun phrase for what Maman and Papa would do rolling in the hay when they snuck off later on their own...

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