Monday, 6 October 2008

Tales from the French

When I enrolled at the Institut Français in London, my second-year syllabus began with a comic-book style serial about collegiate life. Young ones pile into their cars to return to university after the holidays and immediately have an accident. Lots of good vocabulary for changing one's plans, calling parents and breaking the news, dealing with emergency services, sojourns in hospital and other life event not dealt with in your Pocket Berlitz Guide.

Given the driving habits of the French, this approach to language teaching may not have been all that strange, but it was certainly not a scenario we anglais would have proposed. We began to recognise the depth of our cultural differences when, later in the year, we came to the story of The Tortoise and the Hare. In the French version, the rabbit dies.

For my "graduation" present, Parisian friends gave me a copy of Alphonse Daudet's Letters From My Mill (Lettres de Mon Moulin) with Daudet's classic tale of Monsieur Seguin's Goat (La Chevre de Monsieur Seguin), Farmer Seguin's goat leads a good life, but yearns to be free. M. Seguin keeps telling her it's dangerous out there while the wolf keeps coming to taunt her with his freedom. This this goes on for awhile until, eventually, the goat convinces M. Seguin to let her roam. This is a test: guess what happens to the goat?

Studying French in a French school gives you a glimpse into French culture that no English-authored text will ever achieve. The French are a dismal race. My theory, developed while writing that last sentence, is that they enjoy themselves so much in compensation for the doom that they know awaits.

All this is prelude to the account of my doctor's visit this morning. In an effort to catch up with my brother-in-law's stash of drugs -- he's recovering from spleen cancer -- I went to check out the state of my state.

The rash is neither uticaria (violet patches) nor erythema (red rash), as I speculated yesterday. (See why you need doctors?) It is probably caused by a low platelet count and, so, I'm having another blood test tomorrow. After I have the blood test, I have no idea what happens. I also don't know what a low platelet count means, so if anyone wants to enlighten me, it will save me hours of Googling. (Because one thing leads to another, you know, and I start with platelets and then I'm into white cells and the next thing you know, I'm in Columbian pre-history and cars runing on compressed air.)

Besides the prescription for the blood test, I have a new mouthwash, a new toothbrush, new shampoo, paracetamol and a patch in reserve for my next chemo session. But I still have a long way to go to catch up with John.

As I leave her office, I say to Dr. Martin, "But I feel fine, really."

And Dr. Martin replies, "It's early, yet."

Vive la France.


  1. Please, please, please, do not go down this doom and gloom path just yet. You are not French!

    The doctor will tell you what's next. Forget Google. Sometimes you don't need all that info, just do what you're told for once:)

    I'm scared enough for you, to be honest. Relax and leave it to the experts.

    I'm going to Google for you. Your platelets will be fine for another 24 hours. Go search for rammed earth homes...or brush your teeth and gargle.

  2. I also don't know what a low platelet count means, so if anyone wants to enlighten me

    It means your blood won't clot itself to heal up cuts or stop internal bleeding (presumably). This is the symptom haemophiliacs exhibit. You should have it looked into, in my quite a bit less than expert opinion.

    Thanks for keeping the updates coming.

  3. I didn't mean to scare you. I think the French are funny. Smile for me. The rash is better.

  4. Thanks, Cliff. That's what the blood test is for and the nurse has just left.

  5. Chemotherapy attacks any cells that reproduce rapidly. Hair is always growing, hence hair loss. Stomach lining is always regenerating, hence nausea.
    Blood cells have a short shelf life, hence anemia and low platelets. That is what you have.
    Be careful, as it increases your risk of bleeding. How big a concern depends on how low they are.
    Odds are they're just lower than normal, so you may have a harder time clotting a scratch. Just be careful when you shave, etc.
    What they seem to think your rash is, is petechiae.
    You may've hit your nadir, which is the point post chemo where your counts are lowest.
    Just something to watch, not something to freakout about.

  6. That's a great explanation. Thank you. And I bet she (Dr. Martin) did say "petechia" -- or the French equivalent.
    I know about the clotting problem because I got a tiny nick in my thumb after the first session and it didn't start healing for over a week.
    My platelettes fell from 300 to 150 after the first chemo. This week they were down to 55. But my legs no longer show the petechiae and my joints have stopped hurting, so I think I'll be up to enough platelets for my next treatment.