Health Treatment in France
Breast cancer – 6 years on
It is now March 2012, I have lived in France for 11 years and still speak French badly. Last month I had my final consultation with my oncologist at the Centre Catalan d’Oncologie, in Perpignan. It is five years since I finished my radiotherapy and three years since I became involved with Cancer Support France – Sud de France. So what has happened in the meantime?
With my particular type of cancer, I moved from chemotherapy to radiotherapy and then on to a five year course of hormone therapy tablets. First, the well known tamoxifen, followed by other hormone suppressing drugs, the last of which I popped in February. As well as the “bisous” I received from my oncologist to mark the end of treatment, throwing away that packet of drugs has allowed me to feel that I am no longer a cancer patient.
I will now have annual mammograms and ultrasounds and can live with the happy knowledge that anything suspicious will be dealt with speedily. I know that is true because, a couple of years ago, my 6 month check threw up an anomaly. The mammogram revealed a shadow which the doctor felt should be checked “in view of your history”. I was sent straight back to the oncologist who also was sure that it was of no significance but wanted an MRI scan “just to be sure”. It was nothing, but I am confident that all steps will be taken in the future to follow up everything, however minor. This is hugely reassuring and certainly makes moving on easier.
At the end of 2008, my husband, Frank, and I became involved with Cancer Support France, a country wide charitable association which gives support to English speaking people living in France and touched in whatever way by cancer. As well as CSF National, which is basically an administrative centre, there are 15 regional associations spread across France. In April 2009, the new affiliated association, CSF Sud de France, took off, covering the Aude, Ariège and P-O. At that time Frank and I were the only members in the P-O! Three years on, and with thanks to very many people, CSF Sud has around 100 members, over 40 of whom are in the P-O. Eighteen of our local members have followed the CSF training course and have direct client contact. The support which we give ranges from home and hospital visits to language help at consultations, from telephone support to the provision of information. Telephone support may be here in the P-O or across France. CSF Sud is also involved in the translation of various booklets into English in partnership with INCa (l’Institut National du Cancer), a French governmental body. Additionally, we have set up the CSF Forum which is proving to be a useful extra method of support for those who do not have access to a CSF group or prefer the anonymity of the internet.
My involvement with CSF is a positive outcome of my own illness. I have learned a lot about cancer which is a far more complex disease than I realised (I had no idea that breast or any other type of cancer could come in so many different forms, with a myriad of treatments). I also have every confidence that, here in France, whatever treatment is necessary will be provided.