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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Antithesis of a Fairy Tale

Remember how I was saying that not every migration story (even to an exotic locale like France) turns out to be a fairy tale?  I contend and will defend to the death my belief that my life in France is not better than the life I might have had had I stayed in the U.S., it's just different. In the cosmic crapshoot of life, stuff happens wherever you are and you don't always get to have things your way.

About two months ago I was diagnosed with cancer.  Since then I have been learning an awful lot, not only about a part of the French healthcare system I was kinda hoping I'd never need to use, but also about people here in my host country.  A new situation, new relationships, lots to learn.

Originally I was not going to post about this on the Flophouse.  In fact, I pre-programmed a week's worth of posts when I was in the hospital so that no one would know.  Since then I've changed my mind.  As I've been talking with people privately via the phone and email, I've found all kinds of people that I've known for years who have faced this and I never knew.  I've been given a lot of useful information about how to get through something like this from old friends and new ones.  I've spent many hours on Loic's blog, Carnets de Seattle, (he's a French expat in Seattle being treated for leukemia) and it's been a wonderful resource and a great comfort to me.  I'm also in touch with organizations here in France that have support groups and workshops.

I guess that I just came to the conclusion that keeping all that information to myself was both a form of delusional self-protection - yet another unhealthy manifestation of my own fears  - and a kind of selfishness.  Perhaps, just perhaps, there may be something in what I'm going through right now that just might be useful to someone else, somewhere on this planet.  Can't know for sure but then I'll never know if I don't try to connect through my experience.  It's what I've always tried to do with this blog and it would be contrary to my intent here to do otherwise.

It is not my desire to turn the Flophouse over to this topic alone.  My diagnosis and treatment is a part of my life but I don't want it to define my whole life. I love to write and do research about all kinds of topics (citizenship, FATCA, immigration and the like) and I am going to keep the focus there because I love to write, I love to share interesting things I've discovered, and because it makes me happy. But from time to time I'll talk about this too.

May it be of benefit.


Anonymous said...

Hi Victoria
You are a femme remarquable. I have no advice to offer on cancer but I can see that you have great strength and are a fighter. Together with the love from your family and friends I am sure that you will pull through just fine. Sorry to remain anonymous - I feel like I know you - so I will keep you in my prayers.

Anonymous said...

Oh I am so sorry to hear these news Victoria! I wish you lots of energy to go through the treatment! But you seem to have energy and resources from what i perceive through your blog! It is nice of you to share a piece of this personal part of your life here on your blog as, being an anonymous reader and an expatriate myself in the US, I relate a lot to your own expat experience and eventhough I don't know you, I feel I know you in a way! ... And your fideles lecteurs anonymes care about you!

All the best!

Anonymous said...

Victoria, I guess I have an outdated e-mail address for you. I tried to send you a note but it came back. Just want to let you know that we love you. Joy

Anonymous said...

You don't know me, but I've enjoyed reading your blog for a couple of months now, so I feel like I know you through your writing. While I can't offer any useful advice, I sincerely hope you get past this and emerge even stronger. Best wishes.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

Thank you all so much for your kind comments and good wishes.

I am so grateful to you for following and reading the Flophouse. I love doing it and it gives me great joy to hear that others enjoy reading it.

Experiences can either cause us to close down and isolate or they can be an opportunity to open up and find yet another thing that connects us to people all over the world. I want the latter with all my heart.

Take good care,


Em said...

Apparently I talked so little about my encounter with cancer that 20 years later I found out that my brother didn't even know. That can't be a good thing. Do whatever feels right for you -- talk about it whenever you want to. We will listen and send our love back through the aethers and never doubt that you have the strength to get through this.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

Thank you, Em. Something clicked for me the other day when I was reading Pema Chodron on the train into Paris. Instead of trying to escape stuff that causes discomfort, she invites you to lean into it instead. I tried it and found that not only did my fear lessen but looking at all my reasons for not talking about it, I found that they were all based on nebulous scenarios (what a friend of mine refers to as "living in the wreckage of the future') that have very little basis in reality. Furthermore a lot of getting through something like this involves keeping the morale up - something that's tough to do if I hide in my house and pretend that everything is fine. Not only was that not working for me but here I was sitting on some information that might be useful to others. So I let the fear go. Thanks so much listening and for the support. Hearing from other people who've gone through this adds something crucial - perspective. I'm not the first person to experience this and I surely won't be the last. :-)

All the best to you,


Berliniquais said...

Hello Victoria,

What a surprise! And a shock!!! I don't know what to say. I am with you in my thoughts and will definitely spare a few prayers for your recovery at church. I don't know if it works, but I won't make things worse.

I daresay, you write too much for my own reading pace, so obviously I read your posts untimely and "dans le désordre"... so I just came across this one, which I could have skipped altogether.

I wish you a victorious fight against the disease :-(

Best regards,


Victoria FERAUGE said...

Thanks, JM. Between you and me I think it does work. I can personally attest to the efficacity of saying Hail Mary's before the needles start going in. :-) And just knowing that there are people praying (my mother-in-law is having masses said for me at her local church and her prayer group in Brittany is in the job) has an amazing effect on my morale. Will the Creator respond? I think so but whatever happens will be according to His will. That might freak some people out (or cause them to roll their eyes) but I personally find it soothing. Realizing that we are not in charge of everything and that there are some things that are totally beyond our control is a great stress reliever and is allowing me to concentrate on what I can do without having the terrible (and insane) sense that it's all up to me or you or any other earthly power.

All the best,


Kristin said...

Teary-eyed (good tears!)reading your comment, above. You talk about your mother-in-law's heartfelt gesture and your trust in God's will. Your words strengthen hope in all of us.

I was not aware of your diagnosis, in 2012, but learned so in your blog today, when a note in the sidebar caught my eye.

Thinking of you and hoping to meet soon.