Here we are back on my (non!) favourite subject: health.
A month ago I said to Maelle (my GP) that although my right shoulder hurt and I knew it would have to be replaced one day, I wanted to postpone this as long as possible. Three major and one minor op in three years is enough, thank you. But Maelle wanted to get a second opinion as to whether this was wise.
So I have been cramming various medical rendezvous into the three days between returning from holiday and collecting my first summer visitor this evening.On Monday I went for an echographie (and fainted – a first for me and I don’t know why!). Yesterday I had the xrays done. And this morning I went to Montpellier to see the surgeon, Mme Bertrand (who did my hip replacement in 2015).
The hospital, or rather clinique (the term used for hospitals that are privately run but part of the national health service), has moved to a huge new building inconveniently the other side of Montpellier and is, well, horribly clinical. It has only been open for a few months, so let’s hope they will add a few more signposts and door labels to the miles of grey corridors.
My surgeon, on the other hand, is the first one I have felt completely at ease with. And after her surgery on the hip, involving bone graft, I have complete confidence in her technically. She’s a pretty formidable looking woman: in her fifties, clearly super fit, and today wearing a white summer dress with a hem well above her knees and matching stylish heeled sandals. Not what you would see from a senior surgeon in the NHS! (I wouldn’t normally comment on how a doctor looked other than here it gives an idea of how different the two countries are.)
She took one look at the xrays, whistled and said something like “vous pauvre”. Yes, she said, the shoulder was riddled with arthritis and yes it needed replacing and she would do this whenever I wanted. We discussed the complication of all the problems following surgery and radiotherapy last year, and she agreed it was best to wait at least a year after radiotherapy. So we were talking about autumn/winter. Heyho.
Then she asked me how my hip was doing and I told her about the increasing and new pain in my back/hip and in the foot. She did some wiggling around and asked questions and said, screwing up her face in sympathy, that there was always a chance that the problems I had immediately after surgery and/or the radiotherapy could have affected the replacement and bone graft. I am to get some more xrays of hip and back to check if there is a new problem. (If so, I imagine that takes priority over the shoulder!)
We then went on to talk about treatment of cancer in France. It is a pity, Mme Bertrand said, that they don’t prepare cancer patients for all the things that may and often will happen after surgery and treatment. The oncologists are concerned just with treating the cancer itself. She had an aunt who was ill for a year and treated in the same institute as me. We agreed that as oncologists this institute could not be faulted but that there was a lack of interest in treating all the resultant problems, leaving these for the GP to cope with (as poor Maelle has had to). She added she could never cope with operating on cancer and seeing a percentage of her patients die.
I wont decide yet what to do but the amazing thing about the system here is that Mme Bertrand and I can discuss when I would like the operation to happen.