pansement

Bandagiste
A bandagiste on Rue Sade in Antibes. Notice the flirty lace curtains... consider the street sign (what an address  for "wound repairer"!) I think the sadistic French writer, long since deceased, might appreciate the irony in it!

Merci, merci--merci beaucoup! for your letters and comments and lovely caring words regarding skin-cancer surgery. I have read and reread every note and commentaire and have been uplifted by every word! May all these wishes and prayers be shared right back with you, for healing and improvement in any area in which you may need them!

le pansement (pahns mahn)

    : bandage, dressing

Also:

panser une plaie or faire un pansement = to dress or bandage a wound

 

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

Out of Sight out of Mind

Ironically--and frustratingly!--any scars that remain as a result of the surgical wound on my forehead may well be my own doing -- as opposed to the plastic surgeon's handiwork!  

It happened the other night, when I awoke to tickling trickling. Lying there on my back, I felt the gouttelettes slip from the center of my forehead down to my temples and into my hairline, just above my ears.  The sensation woke me, petit à petit, until, I became conscious of the situation: my pansement had been broken through!

I wondered, was the bandage about to burst? Braced for what I might see next, I got up and stepped before the bathroom mirror...

Jean-Marc called me back to bed: "Ne t'inquiète pas! Everything is going to be okay," and I listened to his assuring words as I examined my leaky plaies.


The incision wound, up till now maintained behind a see-through layer of colle chirurgicale, was draining. I stared at the horizontal red lines that ran from the end of the wound, beyond my temples, and into my hairline. A thick red boule formed near the center. I calmly reached for a square of gauze, and stamped it out. Grabbing another compress, I returned to bed, and placed sterile cloth, gently as a fallen feather, over my dripping front. When next I woke up I went to remove the compress... only, it was stuck! The blood had hardened. In a slight panic I tugged it off....

Though my forehead felt nothing (still numb from surgery), the resistance, felt by my tugging hand, alerted me to my bêtise... and I realized then that I had pulled off more than the gauze.... 

Too horrified to look at the compress, I threw it into la poubelle and called my doctor.

***

It's four days later, now, and I am grateful for the new, thick white bandage which completely hides the wound (the doctor, assuring me it was only superficial, put a piece of tulle gras over the skin, to repair my accidental déchirement). A local nurse now dresses the wound every two days. Quel soulagement not to have to see straight into the wound!

Ever since the surgical incision has been completely covered, I have experienced a greater peace of mind... leading me to a new appreciation of the old saying "loin des yeux, loin du coeur", or "out of sight, out of mind".

Speaking of coeur, I've been doing a lot of heart work, lately, wondering about that health-mind connection... specifically the connection to healing. I've been thinking about fear, love, forgiveness, stress, a tendency to people-please... resentment and other issues that crop up... in time to clog up our immune-system channels. I am learning about breathing and releasing and believing. I am being careful not to allow worry to worm its way back in. I sometimes wonder whether worry isn't where it all began...

Finally, I am meditating on this idea: L'amour guérit toutes les blessures. And, truly, if love heals all wounds, then the letters and the comments that you have sent in, in response to my previous post, are the ultimate balm! My wish is that the generous and caring words of support and love that you have shared... will have a rippling return effect... in time to heal your very own hurts, whatever they may be--physical or psychological or still a mystery.

***

Speaking of your comments, I got a good laugh out of your solutions and recommendations, should anyone wonder about the surgical wound on my forehead... "Corky", a melanoma survivor, offered to let me use her fave response: re "the large red, ragged scar I simply told them it was the result of a bar fight". 

I also received an accidental suggestion from our local supermarket clerk: "What happened to you?" he asked. When my complicated answer ("enlevement d'une mechante peau", or "the removal of a 'mean' skin") wearied him, he summed it up in a no-nonsense answer. Knowing that we are local winemakers, he guessed: "You mean you were stabbed by a vine branch during the harvest?!" 

"That's it!" I agreed, and it does, after all make for a good story!

 

Le Coin Commentaires

Comments, corrections, and stories of your own are welcome here, in the comments box. Thank you in advance!

Note: The stories in this thread are filed under Skin Cancer. If you've missed an installment, click here to catch up!

 

French Vocabulary

la gouttelette = droplet

petit à petit = little by little

le pansement = bandage

la colle chirurgicale = surgical glue

le déchirement = ripping, tearing

quel soulagement = what a relief

une plaie = wound

une boule = ball 

le front = forehead, brow

la bêtise = mistake, blunder

le tulle gras = "oily tulle" ("consists of fabric impregnated with soft paraffin (98 parts), balsam of Peru (1 part), and olive oil (1 part), which prevents its sticking to wounds, but means that it needs to be used in combination with another absorbent dressing." -Wikipedia

 le coeur = heart

 

Aqui sian ben (c) Kristin Espinasse

The painted sign, translated here from Provençal to French, reads: Ici on est bien. Indeed, here (and now!) we are well... or we are well in the here and now! Just the reminder some of us need. (Photo taken in our old village of Les Arcs-sur-Argens).

Do you have a minute for another story? In this one, my daughter learns to pray.

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comme ci comme ca

mercerie sew sewing shop
Whoops! That shop sign should read "MERCI"... please help me remove the "ER"... and accept my thanks for your patience as "word a day's" delivery schedule is temporarily interrupted! The next word will go out next week.  Meantime a message from one of our harvesters to Imogen in the UK: Happy Birthday!

comme si comme ça

    : so-so

 

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

One of the first phrases I remember learning in French was "comme ci comme ça", which describes a "so-so" feeling:

Example:

Comment allez-vous?
Comme ci comme ça....

Come to think of it, in the years I've lived in France I've never heard it spoken, that phrase. Perhaps they say it in Paris? or Lyon?

Here down south they say "ça peut aller" and, that's it, ça peut aller today...  as long as I focus on the healing following Friday's surgery for the removal of a lesion on my forehead. I'm not sure what to say about that, but if a picture paints a thousand words, then I'll let the post-op photo speak for me. (Note: I will spare you of the image here! You will need to voluntarily click on the following link to view the picture of my face; warning: faint hearts abstain! On the upside, I think I'd make a good postergirl or "posterhead" for sun block :-) Click here to view the photo--and don't forget to protect your skin and la peau of those you love!

***

Meantime, the harvest continues and the harvesters are double-loveliest ever. I leave you with a beautiful essay, on "respect", from our youngest harvester, Collin (pronounced "call in"). Click over to Collin's blog to read his missive about wine-making. I think he will go very far, given this philosophy.

  Kristin Espinasse

The bcc surgery on my forehead has been the best excuse to try on all kinds of hats (this photo was taken 5 years ago). I've kept the unsightly surgery wound covered all week, as a courtesy to harvesters! I've got this hat (an authentic GDF Gaz de France cap) in my closet.  What do you think?

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couper la parole

Door Knocker blue door france (c) Kristin Espinasse
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

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

Excusez-moi, je vous ai coupé la parole.
Excuse me, I interrupted you. 

A Day in a French Life... Kristin Espinasse

Guts, Madame!

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?"

"Non."

"Non?"

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! 

Courage, indeed.

***

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!

Le Coin Commentaires

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

Capture plein écran 16052011 092531

The classic Bescherelle, the complete guide to French verb conjugation. Read the five-star reviews, and order, here.

 

DSC_0060
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".

DEVENIR MECENE - BECOME A SUPPORTING MEMBER
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
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peau

les betises sign signage typeography balcony French
We'll go ahead and use this photo (for its calligraphie) to illustrate today's story, which might as well be titled "Les Bêtises de La Peau" or "Skin Stupidity". Read on... and cover up with sun screen!

la peau (poh)

    : skin

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc Download MP3 or Wav

Protégez votre peau du soleil. Mettez un écran solaire.
Protect your skin. Apply sun screen.

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

Skin Sins

It looked like a blemish... only it didn't go away. On studying the spot on my forehead, I wondered whether it was a scar--one I had somehow overlooked? Only, I couldn't remember running head first into anything recently.... Besides, I would have remembered the bleeding, the bandaging, and the scabbing (not to mention the embarrassment).

After prodding and poking at the bump, to no avail (I guessed it wasn't acne...), I decided it must be an age spot--a pearly one at that. At the age of 43, I seem to be manufacturing them! There is one above my right eyebrow... and another is coming into view over my left sourcil. Only those spots are the color of age-spots: brown. Did age spots come in other colors and thicknesses?

When the flesh-tone spot in the center of my forehead began to grow (it was growing, wasn't it?) I began to have doubts and, one weekend last month, I threw all of my worry energies together in time to make an appointment chez le dermatologue.

Only problem was: in August, in the South of France, all dermatologists are on the sunny beaches of Costa Brava (just kidding--in truth, I do not know where skin doctors vacation in summertime, but they do vacation, and, therefore, it was difficult finding someone to diagnose the worrisome growth).

I would have to wait three weeks to see a skin specialist in Orange. On my way to his office, I kept forgetting things: where I put my wallet, especially. I managed to misplace it three times that week, whereas I'd never before lost my porte-monnaie. If I am absent-minded by nature, this head-in-the-clouds tendance became epidemic the week of my appointment.

The dermatologist's office is located in an historical hôtel particulier. Stepping past the sky-high iron gate, I peered around the cobbled courtyard. It looked bleak (no swayback benches, no giant pots with trailing flowers), but then it occurred to me: what busy dermatologue had time to sit or to water plants? I decided this was a good sign and stepped over the threshold.

Inside, the only other patient in the sterile waiting room sat reading Voici (France's version of People Magazine). The woman had a big bandage on her ankle. I wondered what skin-related malady had befallen her? 

After checking in, I waited beside the woman with the ankle bandage, and as I read the cover of her magazine, I overheard voices in the next room:

"Je vous ai fait un rendez-vous chez le chirurgien plasticien. I've made an appointment for you at the plastic surgeon's...the secretary was saying to the young woman who had just seen the doctor.

When it was my turn to be examined, the diagnoses came almost as soon as I arrived at the examination table. No magnifying glass was needed, no special flashlight. The only instrument the doctor used was a great blue magic marker. 

Doc used the thick blueberry-colored marker to draw a circle around the mysterious growth, highlighting the area that would need to be excised. Next, he handed me a mirror.

I stared at the spot on my forehead, which appeared even bigger than before. "C'est un carcinome baso-cellulaire." "It's basal cell carcinoma," the doctor explained.

Still starring into the hand mirror, I saw my glassy eyes flanked by mascarad wings, which blinked. 

The doctor assured me: "It is the most common type of skin cancer: nonmelanoma. I diagnose at least one case per week. A lot of farmers around here get it. (I thought of my husband, Chief Grape, who had already had an 8-inch chunk of flesh taken out of his back, some 15-years-ago. He would need to be reexamined!) 

If left untreated, the doctor explained, the cells would keep on growing. But I would probably die of old age, he assured me, before I would die of this type of skin cancer. "That said, basal cell carcinoma is malignant and can spread to the bone, in which case it is best to remove the growth."

The doctor washed off the blue mark from my forehead and scribbled a note to a colleague, a visceral and digestive surgeon, just up the street at the Clinique de Provence.

I wondered whether I shouldn't travel farther, to have some sort of specialist remove the facial growth?But when I voiced my concern, the doctor chuckled: "No need to send you to China to have some cells removed!"

 I laughed, too. True, it was no use complicating the matter. First things first, get the growth removed! And no time to dally, for a second growth appeared last month, piggy-backing the first.

***

Post note: I was uneasy about the idea of a visceral-digestive surgeon cutting and sewing my forehead! Wouldn't a plastic surgeon be a better choice? For days I debated the doctor's recommendation. And then I said a prayer and asked for peace of mind about my decision... and that is when the answer came to me, clear as day: "visceral" means "organ" -- and isn't skin the biggest organ we have? Therefore an organ and digestive doctor would seem to be the right match! I'll see the doctor this Tuesday, which is also la rentrée, or back-to-school for our kids.

 Le Coin Commentaires
Statistics show that 3 out of 10 light-skinned persons may develop basal cell carcinoma in their lifetime. It is the most common form of skin cancer. Share your "sun sins"--experiences, stories, and knowledge-- here, in the comments box--and help spread awareness of this preventable disease. 

 Update: Read about my visit to the surgeon's... where I learn that a gut doctor has been recommended to remove the facial growths... Click here

A picture of the spot:
You can see the spot on my forehead in a picture I posted last month. Click on the following link and look for the first picture (with the pink scarf) in this story column (then click on the picture to enlarge it). The pea-size, flesh-tone spot is in the center of my forehead, one or so inches below my hairline: http://french-word-a-day.typepad.com/motdujour/2011/08/collier.html

 

French Vocabulary

le sourcil = eyebrow

la tendance = tendency

le porte-monnaie = wallet

un hôtel particulier = private mansion

Capture plein écran 16052011 092531

The classic Bescherelle, the complete guide to French verb conjugation. Read the five-star reviews, and order, here.

 

 

trompe l oeil wall painting france

This Frenchman has the right idea: wear a hat! Photo of the trompe-l'oeil taken in 2009, in Pourrières.

DEVENIR MECENE - BECOME A SUPPORTING MEMBER
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.