Growing old is a pain – literally

There are so many ways in which the French health system is wonderful; I am constantly grateful for the good treatment I receive.  Yet it has some bizarre and worrying defects. I have written earlier about the signs of financial strain.  The curious mixture of public/private proision adds to a sense that this is often not a joined-up system. And, as I have said before, you have to be strong to manage your own treatment plan.

My friend Sylvia, who has been much iller than me for the past three months, with serious gastro problems which led to a general collapse in her health, including a recurrence of her depression, and now a brain tumour that they seem to take for ever to investigate.  She had some wonderful care at the specialist clinic in Montpellier, Millénaire (which is where Chris was when he died) and now she is being well looked after at the maison de repos near here, at Chataigniers, where she has a lovely, quiet, spacious room to herself, with a view onto typical Cévenol traversiers, or terraces.

On Thursday, however, she had an unpleasant trip to Millénaire, where she had been told to go for another MRI (to check the progress of the tumour).  Nobody seemed to be expecting her, she had to almost persuade the department to carry out the investigation and the doctor in charge did not bother to tell her the result (unusual here, where one expects to be be given a report, as well as often carrying an unsealed envelope back to the doctor commissioning the investigation).  She even had difficulty getting anyone to tell her where her neurologist’s secretary’s offie was.  Luckily Yves was with her, otherwise she would have just collapsed in tears. The patient normally has to make all appointments, carry all necessary documents, and ensure that the next person in the line gets the results.  Not easy when your are suffering from headaches, fainting fits and depression.

A lot of the problems stem from the fact that we are going to a variety of self-employed, private services working for the state sector: the clinics at Ganges and Millénaire are private, as are the Ganges and Montpellier radiology services.

I’m having a similar, so far less angst making run-around.  At a routine gynae checkup a few weeks ago, the gynaecologist spotted something he didnt like and arranged for me to come back for a mammography (which of course I had to set up) and an echography in his cabinet.  He didn’t like the look of the echography, so wants me to have a biopsy at the clinic.  He has written to the doctor, but I of course had to arrange the appointment. But guess what, the appointment is to see the next doctor in order to set up a further date for the actual biopsy.  That will be four visits (excluding the mammography) each incurring a charge of over 50 euros, albeit mainly reimbursed.

It goes on potentially: I was relating this saga to friends in a cafe yesterday and learnt that the wife of one is some stages on: she has had the biopsy, a D&C, a trip to Montpellier for an MRI and now awaits further meetings in Ganges, probably for a hysterectomy.  The husband is convinced that all this, which is clearly stressing out his wife, is in order to knock up more revenue for the doctors involved.  I’m not so sure, but I don’t think it is an efficient way for services to interact.

Curiously, although I should be worrying about possible results showing cancer, I’m not worked up.  I’m far more taken up with the pain in various bits of my body, mostly related to arthritis.  As the hip very slowly heals, I have pain that comes and goes in my knee (there most of the time) right foot, left ankle and right shoulder!  This last week has been particularly bad and energy draining – and then suddenly today it’s only the knee really hurting. (Oh, and of course, my six monthly eye visit showed glaucoma problems slowly increasing.)

I’m pissed off at getting older and having all these ailments (and supporting friends with health problems) and would like a year free of ops and crises, after a year with shoulder, hand and hip ops.  Instead I would like to think about and plan trips to India, Istanbul, Venice, Rome…….. rather than await the next gloomy medical verdict.

I rant here in order to let off steam, so that I can try to keep to my resolution not to talk about ailments to friends when I meet them.  When they greet me: “Ca va?” I don’t want to reply “Ca ne va pas du tout”.


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