Meaningless small talk leads to a meaningful connection! + parler de pluie et du beau temps
Echapper belle: What we are avoiding, alluding, dodging, and running away from this week!

Abasourdi + Chez le dermato: The French don't see the skin doctor (or the dentist) twice a year

Leaves stone building
I try to illustrate every post with photos, but it's a bit challenging when the topic is the doctor's office. Who wants to see a picture of that? So enjoy this random shot instead!

Today's word: abasourdi

    : stunned, taken aback, thunderstruck
    : deafened

Book: 365 Days of French Expressions: Learn one new French Expression per Day

Listen to the following words, read by Jean-Marc: 

Click here for the soundfile

Je suis abasourdi par le nombre de personnes qui veulent «connaître» l'univers alors qu'il est déjà suffisamment difficile de se repérer dans le quartier chinois de New York. I'm astounded by people who want to 'know' the universe when it's hard enough to find your way around Chinatown. --Woody Allen


    by Kristi Espinasse

Twenty-two years ago, when my brother-in-law, Doug, came to visit us in St Maximin, he was left abasourdi (thunderstruck) at the dry cleaners. The red-haired owner, of a certain age--who rocked a jaw-level blunt cut--turned him away. (Or rather, turned his chemises away.) "There are too many shirts! I can do three. C'est tout!"

I felt the same way, recently, at the dermatologist's. Just like French dentists, skin care doctors aren't business savvy. It's not that they reject your money--they are simply mal à l'aise with the business of healthcare. So when a proactive patient shows up at their door, they are, like my brother-in-law, a bit thunderstruck. 

Since going under the knife in 2011 to remove a tumor from my forehead I am careful to get to the dermato yearly--sometimes twice a year. But this is the first time I have been chewed out by my doctor for anything other than too much sun exposure (tell that to my 9-year-old self in the Arizona desert). But I'm ahead of myself--just like I'm ahead of skin cancer--or try to be. So let me back up and tell you what it's like to visit a French dermatologist....

I brought my husband with me. Not for moral support--I brought him in for a check-up! As a former wine farmer, he shares a common pépin with other agricultural workers: skin cancer. He had his first carcinoma frozen off during our previous "couples appointment." (I like to save both the doctor and us time--by this two-for-one rendez-vous). 

Jean-marc vines tan
My husband, Jean-Marc (aka the guy who records the sound files for this word journal)

"Who'll go first?" My 60-ish doctor piped up. Like the dry cleaner, mentioned above, she wore a blunt-cut--hers a little longer than the redhead's... and both shared a quirky and bold character--two things I love in people.

Vas-y! I said to Jean-Marc, watching my husband walk into the examination room and strip off all his clothes. Now I know what the doctor means when she says, "il faut TOUT enlever."  As she probed Jean-Marc, both his body and his lifestyle, I perused Doc's antique-filled office. What a great desk! I thought. Look at all those statues from far off exotic places... She must be a traveler! 

"You can join us in here," Doc suddenly said, and I wondered, for an instant, if she might've mistaken me for a kleptomane? Now I'm being paranoid--which is what brought me here in the first place, i.e. those spots on my face.

I took a seat on a stool near the foot of the examination table, where I had quite an eyeful of my husband (from his toes right up to his nose. As my eyes traveled up along his backside, I was noticing his cute butt...when Doc suddenly said, "I'm going to have to freeze this one. You've got the beginning of a carcinome basocellulaire." She was talking about a patchy red spot on his back. The freezing would be painful, but not as bad as a freezing below one's lower eyelash--I should know!

"But what if I blink or move my eye?" I remembered asking the doctor, on a previous visit as she aimed her fuming ice wand at my eye. She answered casually: "Ce sera une très mauvaise idée...."

Memories. Memories. Presently it was my turn to be examined. I'd stripped off my clothes (including my culottes!) and stood there on the cold floor tiles waiting for the doctor, who was back in her office, completing my husband's medical file as he handed her his carte Vitale, or health care card.

"Déjà?" The doctor said, looking my way. Any confidence I'd gained following my husband's example fell to the floor along with my jeans and underthings. Looking away, I saw a giant roll of paper--and wondered if I could help the doctor along by lining the examination table...better yet I could roll myself in it....

I'm so glad I didn't because my next two moves would infuriate le médécin who'd reappeared beside the examination table, leaving my husband to peruse the well-decorated office across the way.

"Just hold your horses!" she said, snapping at me. (Well, maybe she didn't say "horses"...but her words stampeded forth so abruptly they left me in tears.) What had I done besides not wasting a moment to tell her why I was here? I had said, "j'ai ça... et ç ça"... quickly pointing out three suspect growths. Perhaps it was my get-to-the-point American way? Any vitesse on my part had to do with not wanting to hold up any clients that were patiently waiting in the salle d'attente

"I have my way of doing things here!" Doc barked, proceeding to systematically examine me from head to toe. Eventually, she softened. "I understand you have had a bad experience with skin cancer, and it's normale you are concerned," she said, looking at the scars on my forehead and nose. But not every bump is cancerous. With that, my dermato handed me an ordonnance for Fluorouracil--for use on those "suspect" spots. "This way you can treat them yourself. This cream will provoke a reaction if they are cancerous. For the rest, You only need to see me once a year."

I looked at the prescription for "Efudix"...Wasn't that the cream that turns your face into one big scab? For two months? If and when I use it I'll have to hide out somewhere.... Maybe my doctor, the traveler, can recommend a place?

Pas de panique. Today's takeaway is simply this: when you go to a doctor in France, take your sweet time.  Why not carry that lesson out of the doc's office and into your life. Prenez le temps. Pas de stress. Isn't that the main thing when it comes to good health?

abasourdi = taken aback
la chemise = shirt
mal à l'aise = uncomfortable with something
le dermato = dermatologist
le pépin = snag
vas-y = you go ahead
il faut tout enlever = you must take everything off
la culotte = panty, underpant
la salle d'attente = waiting room

Paris Peace T-Shirt available in a rainbow of colors
Embryolisse - face moisurizer from France with so many uses. See the reviews!
La Tisanerie French Tisane - a warm, soothing drink before drifting off to sleep

Sunglasses sunhat protected from uv rays

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety