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Curfew in French

La Maladie des Amoureux

Papeterie card stationary shop aix-en-provence france vespa
That's Max behind the door! Today's story begins in Aix-en-Provence, the city of a thousand fountains and tears....

TODAY'S WORD: la maladie

        : illness, sickness, condition, disease, pathosis

le congé de maladie = sick leave
la maladie de la vache folle = mad cow disease
l'assurance maladie = health insurance

ECOUTEZ - Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's French word: Download Maladie-des-amoureux

La mononucléose infectieuse est aussi appélee la maladie des amoureux.
Mononucleosis is also called the lovers illness.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Friday, after trying to donate our sang at our town's blood drive, we rushed to Aix-en-Provence to pick up our daughter. We found her on the curb of the city's périphérique. Bundled inside a coat and wearing a scarf up to her ears, tears were streaming down her face which looked pale and swollen.

As soon as Jackie got into the car she thanked us for coming to get her. "Je n'ai pas dormi la nuit. Je crois que c'est une angine. Ça fait tellement mal! " I didn't sleep all night. I think I have a throat infection. It hurts so bad!

With that, she curled into a ball in the back seat, beside her her tattered Bunny (plucked nostalgically from storage before she moved to Aix for design school). The sides of her throat were enlarged, her head ached, and when she swallowed a look of extreme douleur creased her face, causing more tears to pour out. "And there is a bump on the back of my head..." she said.

I reached into the back seat and felt behind our 19-year-old's head. The bosse was the size of an olive.

Jackie pushed my hand away, complaining of pain. The other symptoms she mentioned seemed related, but this bump on the back of her head....

"Sweetie. Did you hit your head?"

"I don't think so. Pas que je sache."

I turned back around in the passenger seat and shot a panicked look over to the driver. Jean-Marc hit the gas and soon we arrived the doctor's office--at which point everything slowed way down.....

The next scene could be summed up in one word:  "farce". The dark comedy began with a foreign doctor who spoke worse French than I. Ushering us into her office, she became fussy about seating, rearranging chairs until we grabbed onto one.

"C'est bon. Merci! This one is fine. Thank you!" We were anxious to get Jackie to the pharmacy for some calmants, as soon as we could get a diagnosis and a prescription.

The doctor finally returned to her own chair and caught her breath. (Breath that you could visibly see, so cold was her examining room!) "What brings you here?" she said. But as soon as she spoke, elle s'est pliée en deux!--bent over, it seemed, in a pain of her own!

As she listened to us recount Jackie's symptoms, she leaned in to say something to us. Her hand over her stomach, the doctor shrieked, "J'ai le gastro!" I have diarrhea!

Jean-Marc and I were stunned. Jackie didn't seem to hear, but sat shivering in the examination chair, all but begging for morphine.

For someone who had a bad case of the runs, the doctor seemed bent on getting through the consultation.  She pulled a fresh wooden stick out of a paper envelope and hobbled over to  her patient. But when she reached to dry our daughter's tears, I sensed something was off. Perhaps it was all the dramatics involved in each gesture. The doctor hobbled back and forth to the supply cabinet, to the trash can, each effort punctuated by some or other high-pitched announcement we could not understand (except when she hollered, "C'était les oeufs! The corner store sold me rotten eggs for lunch. And now I have gastro!!)." She shouted each bit of information, holding this audience of three captive, on the edge of our seats!

Twice the size of Dr. Ruth and wearing a suede skirt, the doctor shouted.  "Come, Mama, look at this!"

I shot up, following the doctor's orders. It seemed the sooner we reacted, the sooner we'd get out of here! Hélas....

A stick held down Jackie's tongue but there was nothing to stem her tears. I peered into her throat which was coated white.

"This is (something something) necrosis," the doctor shouted. "There, you see it? Look at that!"

Necrosis  sounded very bad indeed! We needed to get our daughter out of here--out of this ICE BOX and into a warm place with something to calm the pain.

Jean-Marc and I were now leaning over the doctor's desk in an effort to help her write out the information we so desperately needed--directions to an ORL specialist. But there was no rushing things with Dr. Ruth, no matter how desperately she herself needed to go! If Dr. Ruth was THIS ill with le gastro, why did she bother to let us in? I began to wonder, Was this an episode of La Caméra Cachée? When would the film crew reveal themselves?

The film crew never appeared, but the comedie noire continued--with more blood-curdling shouting from the doctor, more doubled-over gestures, and the nerve-racking question: would she make it (to the loo)!

When the three of us finally escaped, we were tongue-tied and in no mood to gossip about the lively doctor. Instead, we were silently thankful she could secure an appointment for Jackie at the ORL specialist--after more hollering and dramatics (Go Dr Ruth!). Here's to all good doctors who so often put their selves aside, to get us on le bon chemin, toward health and well-being. 

Update: The ORL said it was not some kind of necrosis. It was...mononuleosis! Jackie will miss the rest of the school semester.

garden stone steps jackie max
Jackie and her brother Max, who is good at cheering up his sister by making her laugh.

le périphérique = ring road, beltway
une angine= throat infection
une bosse = bump, lump
la douleur = pain
pas que je sache = not to my knowledge
le calmant = painkiller
se plier en deux = to double over, to bend over in pain
hélas = unfortunately
ORL (oto-rhino-laryngologiste) = ENT specialist
la caméra cachée = candid camera

father daughter snorkeling south of france mediterranean sea rock
I leave you with some favorite family pictures. Jackie learning to snorkel in the Mediterranean, with Jean-Marc

Jackie wanted her dad to take her to the doctor. Papa au secours! Daddy to the rescue! (Photo taken around 2004)

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Poor Jackie! Mono takes a while to run its course so good thing she has her maman et papa to comfort her during her convalescence. Hopefully she'll feel better by Christmas! 🎄🎄

Nyla Witmore

Just now....In Colorado, I awoke in the middle of the night and was reading a chapter from WORDS IN A FRENCH LIFE, my "go-to book" when I cannot sleep. Just then my ipad went "ping" with your blog arriving in my email. I sympathize. I had mononucleosis in college two weeks before final exams; that was 54 years ago. While having to spend time lying flat in bed, too weary to lift my head, I decided to focus on my toes. I challenged myself by learning to cross my big toe over the second toe. Having mastered that, I thought to do the reverse...coax my taller second toe to cross back over the big toe, which is infinitely more difficult. Had I not been so ill I would never have bothered to take the time. Even eating crackers drained my physical energy. This foot challenge feat required nothing more than determination and concentration. I felt compelled to do something productive!

Perhaps Jackie will learn a new talent during her convalescence...maybe design an entire wardrobe. A line of pet clothing? Unique hair adornments? As clever as she is, she will think of something.

In life, when given lemons..(disappointments)...we could choose to make lemonade. Is there such an expression in French?

Bruce in Northwest Connecticut

Good heavens! I thought I was going to comment about how beautiful the top photo is with that extraordinary lighting. Then I read the story! If I didn't know better, I'd say you'd started writing fiction.

I'm relieved that Jackie eventually got to a competent doctor, even if the diagnosis wasn't a welcome one. (Is a bump on the head a symptom of mono?) Still, even though she'll be down and out for a while, it's not life-threatening and, from what I understand, she'll soon be pain-free and just tired.

I'm sure all of your readers are sending her their thoughts, prayers, and love.

P.S. I've worked with Dr. Ruth. Kristi, you're twice as big as she is. I'm three or four times as big as she is.


Kristi -

Mono is so common amongst college students. I had it one summer just after school ended and I was supposed to begin a summer job cutting down trees with a chainsaw. After 5-6 weeks of recovery, I still remember my first day on that job.. I could barely lift the saw! Had to start it by essentially holding onto the pull rope and dropping the saw :-)

Hope you caught it soon enough so that her spleen isn't swollen too much. And despite many protestations to the contrary, this is a very painful disease that completely wipes one out. Jackie will need to be patient! Best wishes to her.


Kristin Espinasse

Bruce, The second doctor told us the bump was none other than a ganglion--a swollen lymph node. Who knew they could appear on the back of the head!


Monday is so draining. She'll need lots of sleep. Glad she has you two so close to bring her home.

ann sorocki

so happy that, as horrible & painful as mono is, it isn't mad cow or anything worse. Your daughter will recover beautifully with all the loving care & attention she'll have. Best wishes for a joyeux Noelle(?) Thanks always for your blog.

Judi in Lake Balboa

This sounds very scary, being in that doctor's presence! I'm so glad you' got Jackie to a professional! I am sorry to h at she will have to be recuperating for such a long time. It glad she had you and Jean-Marc!! I think that idea, when the pain subsides, of her designing in her head or eventually sketching on paper would be a great thing for her. Right now just major mama love and care!!

Cynthia Gillespie-Smith

OH, my poor Jackie! She must feel awful (physically) and sad to miss the rest of the her semester. You'll cheer her up, Christmas is coming and Jackie will soon be well again.

Patricia Sands

C'est tout terrible! That doctor sounded like something straight from fiction! Lots of rest, liquids, and love for Jackie, and she is in the best place for that ~ chez vous deux!


Poor Jackie. I know -- thankfully not from personal experience -- how painful and debilitating mono is. I think it's going to be a quiet Christmas for Jackie this year. I hope she'll be well enough to go back to college next term.

As for that doctor, she should not have been in her office seeing patients if she had diarrhea. It could have been a sign of something worse than eggs that had passed their best.


Mono seems to hit the young just when they are in the process of personal growth and are very busy with their lives, but it can last months. Rest, rest ,rest and take the blood tests again before you pay for the spring semester. I wish a quick recovery for her.

lou bogue

sorry to hear that Jackie has mono, and will miss the rest of the term but since it is her first, not the worse time, if I need a DR. next year when I come to visit, please don"t take me to DR.Ruth, hard to believe you have that type in France. With the kind of care Jackie will e receiving, this should be a quick and short recovery, hope so, JOYEUX NOELLE. Lou

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristi,

I hope Jackie is feeling a bit better! Mono can be very draining! The doctor sounds a little strange!


The minute you described the symptoms, I had the feeling it was mononucleosis. Our son had the same thing in college. Miserable... She must take care and respect the full recommended time to heal and not try to do too much too soon. Am so sorry for her and for you. Hope she is feeling better now.

Audrey Wilson

Almost a French Farce Kristin , but for poor Jackie suffering so .Glad she was able to get to an ORT specialist & get the right medication. I do hope it will not affect her Christmas too much. Please wish her a speedy recovery .

Linda D.

Sending Love and healing wishes!

Beth Fiacco

It's true what folks are saying here - my daughter also had mono in high school - it's not only a slow road back to health, but it pops up it's ugly head again if one's immune system get's too weak again. Take good care Jackie to do as the doctor recommends! Lots of rest and comfort of home will do the trick! ♥ Joyeux Noël to all!

Roger Anderson

As a father and now a grandfather, I got a lump in my throat when I read you said that Jackie wanted her father to come to take her for medical help. I know you both went and she wanted you both there but your blog this morning made a lot of Dad's feel good.


Give Jackie plenty of chicken, vegetable, and rice soup while she
recovers. Then keep plenty of books, writing, and drawing materials
near her bed. Matisse produced some beautiful cut out art while he
recouperated. When Jackie is feeling stronger maybe she can create a book full of her brother's expressions which are his funniest and her favorites. Best wishes for a complete recovery.

Deborah Zajac

Oh my gosh! My oldest-my son had Mono while away in college. He was sick for awhile, and didn't seek medical help until he came home for Thanksgiving. He was so sick. I'd never seen him that sick. I was terrified!

We took him to the Doctor straight-away. Who, thankfully, wasn't suffering from la gastro! :) Boy did he scold Big Baby Boy for waiting so long to go to a Doctor. His spleen was very swollen by then. He was sent to bed with instructions to stay there, and had to return each week for a blood test to test the spleen. The Doctor said if he didn't stay on bed rest he wouldn't be able to return to school.

Fortunately after two weeks of medicine, rest, and a lot soup he turned the corner and started to get better. The Doctor allowed him to return to school, but it took weeks, weeks for him to fully recover.

All our best to Jackie! I hope she recovers quickly. Thankfully she has you, Jean-Marc, and Max to cheer her up and help through it!

Judi Dunn

Oh No! .... this is terrible news, but thank God it is only that. Bad as it is, take comfort it is not something much worse. With both of you on the job comforting her and taking good care she will recover and be the real Jackie again. I believe she will find some creative way to spend her time convalescing . You are a great cook and now will be a great nurse as well. Petting Smokey will be a good thing to do as well, very calming to the whole body and he will love it too. Check my video and short story about Gerry in the hospital Monday... it was not fun for him and they treated me horribly .... never again would be too soon! Meanwhile, you will have Jackie to love on and bring back to the picture of health. It may be hard now, but try and count your blessings... Judi Dunn, Tallahassee, Fl.

marjorie cannon

So sorry re Jackie, and prayers for her, but I did have to giggle at your very strange Dr. appt. when you needed quick help. You have a memory for certain.

Karen Cafarella

So sorry to hear about Jackie. Mono is tough, my sister had it. I remember the pain but know that goes away with rest. Sending loving healing prayers her way.



Isn't it interesting that in English, it's "Health Insurance", but in French, it's "Sickness Insurance." I guess that's part of the French habit to use a negative when they mean a positive. "Pas mal" (not bad) is a high compliment!


I enjoy reading your blog especially now, when I am home recoovering from surgery. I look for it in my inbox every week. I think your lifestory would make for a very good novel and even a movie.

Thank you and Merry Christmas!

Ron Quinton

Despite the theatrics at the doctors office , fortunately you received good advice and referral. Many doctor work sick out of obligation ignoring the advice "physician heal thyself".

I had mono in college my senior year and missed a semester of flight training which fortunately I was able to make up in the spring but had to crawl to my other classes I was so weak. Recovery was complete with no sequela.

rick chinn

i thought the first. doc was straight out of Saturday Night Live.

For comic relief, remember that mononucleosis fits neatly into the song from Mary Poppins: super-cali-fragilistic-ex-pe-alli-do-cious...

bedrest, momma's love, and chicken soup, will pull her thru this.


Healing wishes to Jackie, and sympathy that she won't get to complete her semester. Mono has the strangest assortment of manifestations and I'm so sorry that she got one of the painful ones. I hope it will prove one of the ones that abates faster. Most important - rest, rest, rest and don't try to rush the return to normal life.

Devra Long

What an experience!! Please tell Jackie I am sending healing hugs and prayers; I too had mono in college; as others have said; rest and more rest!😘


I know it's not funny, but it could be a skit from SNL.


I had mono right before final exams many years ago when I was in college.
I remember being so very sick, not being able to get out of bed without my mother's help. It is a very debilitating disease. Rest is the cure. I hope Jackie will regain strength and get back to feeling well. Janine

Sarah LaBelle near Chicago

Jackie is good to know when to seek help. Mono, or EBV as I learned to call it, is so varied in its course. Some are better completely in a few weeks, some take 6 months. My mother got it when my older brother went to college, so never liked that name, the kissing disease, given for the spread among college students. Epstein Barr Virus. I hope your Jackie has a speedy recuperation. EBV is an odd virus; many show the antibodies, never having been visibly ill, while others do get hit hard.

The first doctor you had to see was fit for a role in a comedy.
That earlier poster should realize how long US health insurance was really illness & injury insurance. That meant nothing preventive was covered. Names are deceptive. France has a national system, which is way ahead of the US.


Oh no! Poor Jackie! That sounds truly awful, and I'm sure that not even the story of the visit to the doctor suffering from gastro could make the situation seem funny to your girl right now. I'm wishing Jackie a speedy recovery. I suspect she's already feeling much more comfortable at home with her mom taking excellent care of her. :)

Brenda Prowse

Bon Courage Jackie. I hope you feel better soon. And I hope Dr. Ruth made it to the bathroom-hilarious account. Hopefully by now it seems funny to alll 3 of you! Bisous.

Carolyn  Edelmann

Mono is no joke, and I am hoping that you caught it in time, despite obstructionist doctor. When I was very ill in France, the doctor(s) did two special things, which I wish everyone would do in my purported real country... prescribed ampoules of a liquid, radis noir, black radish, which was supposed to cleanse the system, I believe the liver especially, after the poison, not only of the disease, but also of the antibiotics. prescribed acidophilis, etc., (probiotics) right along with the antibiotics but on a different schedule, so that the natural flora of the intestines could take over every single day.

My upstairs neighbor, "La Comtesse. La Marquise", who was by no means given to cooking, prepared me an enormous platter of fat Provencal asparagus. They were so beautiful, strong as I was not, and gleaming, as I definitely was not. "Pour vos reins," she insisted, waving away my thanks. (For your kidneys...) She added, with intensity, "...des antibiotiques -- c'est toxiques!" I probably am not spelling these words well, since this was spring 1988.

But I did wish our doctors here knew about all these natural solutions to an unnatural condition. Wishing Jackie well in all ways, and knowing that the prime prescription is TIME.

grazielle m.

woooooooowwwww...incroyable.....this is worth SNL!!!! I CAN'T believe some of your aventures en famille!!! Hope all is well very soon!


Here's wishing Jackie a speedy recovery.
At the risk of over-sharing, my son had mono when he was in graduate school quite a few years ago, and I received a telephone call from him much like you did from poor Jackie. I flew down from New York to take care of him in Virginia, but his case so severe that his throat was closing up due to the inflammation and he was put on steroids. At that point, I put him in his car and drove him back to New York where I could take care of him properly over the next few weeks. Another point: people with mono need to avoid consuming alcohol for a few months following recovery from the illness because mono weakens the liver. Just F.Y.I.

Chris Allin

Your precious unfortunate to have this happen, especially at this time of year. She just needs to cozy down, get lots of sleep and rest while the outside world spins around. And where better than at home with family. Wishing her bonne santé...

Barbara Mayfield

So sorry Jsckie has mono. I got mine at the beginning of a prestigious summer internship. I know she is miserable and there is never a good time to get something so disruptive. I hope she doesn't get too far behind in school and most importantly feels better soon.

edie schmidt


Quelle aventure! I'm glad the doctor was able to aid you while she was in need of aid herself.
Hope Jackie will be feeling better soon. Mono is nasty and seems to be pretty prevalent among
college students. Sad for her to sick over the holidays but maybe she won't lose as much class time.
Wishing you and your family a peaceful holiday season,
Edie from Savannah

James Smith

Pray that all goes well. You cleared up something for me; I heard people in France frequently complain of "angine" and always thought they were speaking of angina, pain in the chest from inadequate blood supply to the heart. I couldn't figure out why so many French had bad hearts.


Our dear Kristi,
Especially keeping beautiful Jackie in our prayers to feel better!
How miserable for her(!) Just so thankful that she is with you at home.You and Jean Marc can give her the special kind of TLC that only loving parents can.
Though your initial visit with the doctor was anything but funny,your gifted description was nothing short of a gem(!)And! reassuring that the kind of gastro she had was not contagious!
Natalia XO


Hoping Jackie recovers quickly! Get a lot of rest and healthy nutrients! I had mono around that age - not fun. It's good she has you all to help you get better!


I see that many of us can see this as an SNL sequence. That doctor should not have been treating Jackie, but she made it to the ENT. Thank God. Was fortunate to have never gotten mono, but then I know many people who have. Chicken soup is the remedy for those who are sick and it is good for you. Roast a chicken with herbs for a better flavor for the soup.
Sorry that Jackie may not have a very Merry Christmas, but at least she will be with family.
Merry Christmas to you and the whole family. We will be in Champagne country for Christmas and New Years. Looking forward to it.


Leslie in Oregon

Even though it was decades ago, I remember having mono when I was about Jackie's age. It was near the start of my second term at university, and, being far from home, I spent 10 days or so in the university infirmary and then had a reduced class load for the rest of the term. What I learned was, if you have mono, give yourself enough time at rest to fully heal (as defined by your ORL) or you risk prolonging your recovery and/or then being highly susceptible to a recurrence. Best wishes to Jackie and her wonderful caregiving family, Leslie

Frederick Caswell

So loving and tenderly told! It is no surprise that your readers love you. Affectueusement

Linda R.

Good heavens, what a story ! Glad to know that Jackie was at least and finally able to have a proper diagnosis and is on her way to good health.


"Mono" is not an easy fix. Lots of rest and great food and time. Maybe you will have your girl home for a few weeks!! Loved this story. Merry Christmas. xoxo Mary


so...did you ever figure out what that bump on jackie's head is?


I know exactly what you're going through. We had to keep our son out of the last few weeks of his high school football season due to mono. It wasn't pretty. :-( But this too shall pass. The care and tenderness they've shown for us since their mid 20s makes everything seem trivial.

Kristin Espinasse

Yes. It was a swollen lymph node. Strange place for it to be... But this is was the doctor confirmed. 

Donna Grieder

Best wishes to Jackie for a smooth recovery. And thanks for the story. I could feel your distress! When I was a teenager I worked at a store, where taped to old-fashioned cash register ( the slip of paper stayed for the 4 years I worked there ) were the words "He who has his health has everything" Now, in my 40-plus years of work as a nurse, I understand those words more than I ever could have at 17!

Sue J.

our daughter got mono her first year of college...apparently there is medication available to help speed the recovery (though I can't remember the name of it). Hang in there, tout le monde, and get well.

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