I’m fair skinned. That means I have to go to the dermatologist a lot to make sure one of my 8 million freckles hasn’t become deadly.
After hearing about a few people dying of melanoma recently (thank you Facebook), I figure it’s time for a check up.
I have two choices, find an English-speaking doctor, who is probably in Cannes and costs a gazillion dollars, or find one in Antibes who probably doesn’t speak English and is a fraction of the cost. Being lazy and cheap, I make a rendez-vous with a Dr. Michelle Bagni, Docteur Dermatologue-Venereologue, about 5 minutes from my apartment.
There is no receptionist. The walls are bare. It’s basically a big unfurnished apartment with a lovely bay window and hardwood floors. The waiting room has a few mismatched chairs, a coffee table with magazines and brochures on how to identify skin cancer.
Everyone in the waiting room is older than me, and none of the visitors seem to be here for cosmetic purposes and if they are, they’re either actually 120 years old and don’t look a day over 90, or my doctor is a really crappy cosmetic dermatologist. Who knows, maybe that makes her better at the health-related stuff.
After a 15-minute wait, she comes out to get me. She’s barefaced, and I dare say, all natural. She’s probably in her 50’s. Her office is like her, no-nonsense, no frills, but good bones. There’s a desk, chairs, files, computer and an examination table in the adjoining room.
As I suspected, she only speaks French, but this is just a check up, I can get through that.
She thoroughly examines every inch of my skin and finds two boutons (isn’t the word “bouton” so much cuter than “grotesque growth”?) for biopsy. One on my leg and the other on my arm. She cuts them out, stitches me up and sends me on my way. The bill is only 30Euro, which thrills me (I read some guy in Cannes charges 100 Euros for a consultation!) For some reason, I don’t worry about it.
Until I go back to get my stitches taken out and get the biopsy results.
Dr. Bagni finds my file and scans it. A look of concern passes over her face. My pulse shifts into high gear.
I’m relieved when she says “Ce n’est pas grave,…” but my relief slowly dissipates as she continues speaking and I don’t understand a word she’s saying. Worse, she’s using hand gestures that indicate cutting and scooping a large chunk of my arm. On the positive side, she doesn’t use amputation and death gestures
.From what I can gather the bouton on my leg is nothing and the one on my arm is in fact, mauvais. She thinks I should go to a doctor with more medical equipment because they have to go pretty deep to get it all out. Or something like that.
She asks me whether I’d rather go to a doctor in Cannes or In La Fontonne. I ask which is better and she says a bunch of stuff in French and I agree to whatever it is she said. Turns out I’m going to Cannes. Next week.
I rush home to translate the test results clutched in my hand. It seems I have squamous skin cancer on my arm and the borders need to be widened. Which leads to a day of Googling squamous skin cancer (somewhere between Basal Cell which isn’t usually deadly and Melanoma which often is) and funeral homes in the South of France.
While it’s only a 10-minute train ride away, Cannes is a whole other world than Antibes. Apparently, so are their dermatologists’ offices.
Dr. Mangiavillano’s “Centre Laser and Chirugie Dermatologique” has art everywhere in addition to obviously expensive carpets, drapes and furniture. There’s a huge TV monitor in the waiting room/receptions area playing some demonstration of all the fabulous things you can have done to look better using awesome looking machines and lasers. There’s a library of brochures for things like liftmassage, laser this and botulism toxine that. A very friendly receptionist speak a bit of English.
The clientele here is younger than the one in Antibes (well, they look it anyway). A good-looking man with a beard asks me in French if this is my first time. I have no idea what he’s referring to, so I just nod, say “oui. J’ai peur.” He reassures me in French (at least I think he’s reassuring me, and God knows what he’s reassuring me about). I wonder what scars his beard is hiding.
His office has lots of art, fancy furniture and a bunch of really cool looking technological gadgets that I’m sure could take years, maybe decades off my face. But right now, I just want this damn thing off my arm.
He asks me in French why I’m here. I tell him I have a mauvais bouton and hand him the envelope Dr. Bagni gave me with the results. I nervously study his expression as he reads my file. He looks pretty matter of fact, which I consider a good sign. Of course, it could be because his face doesn’t move. He tells me to take off my shoes and lie down in the cushy treatment lounger.
He asks me if I would prefer to speak in French or English. Angels sing “hallelujah.” Even though I came prepared by double checking how to say “you’re going to die” in French (“vous allez mourir”, unless he addresses me in the familiar in which case it would be “tu vas mourir”) I ask him to speak English.
He tells me that I have skin cancer, it’s not serious, he just needs to cut a wider border than the piece Dr. Bagni cut out for biopsy and then it will be gone.
He leaves the room for a moment and his assistant/nurse/whatever appears. She’s an an ageless woman (who has obviously had work done). She holds my hand reassuringly while scrutinizing my face. She tells me (in French) I have rougeurs and need something laser. I’m sure I do. I just wish she’d stop looking at me. Now she’s saying more stuff that I don’t understand…probably telling me I need botox, a face lift and maybe some tasteful breast implants. Now I’m really scared. Dear God, is there an anesthesiologist?
The doctor returns and they do their work, chatting to each other in French (probably talking about all the work I need done). In all, it probably takes 30 minutes and I don’t feel or see a thing. I walk out with 12 stitches and a large gash across my arm that looks like a failed suicide attempt made by a very stupid drunk person.
I go to the receptionist to pay. E300! That’s 10 times the cost of the Antibes doctor! Sure, more stitches, but jeez. I do some quick math…that’s 25 Euro a stitch, compared to 6 Euro a stitch in Antibes. This thread must be some rare tibetan silk woven by albino yaks. I’m starting to feel a little sick so I sit down. The assistant brings me a glass of water.
When I’m feeling better I head to the pharmacy to fill the prescription Doctor Mangiavilla gave me. I drop E30 on the various bandages, gauze, disinfectant and healing unguents, plus another $70 on some miracle anti-rougeurs cream (it’s gotta be cheaper than lasers, oui?).
All in all, my dermatological excursion to Cannes cost E400. All I can say is, when these stitches come off, my arm better look at least 10 years younger.