Piqûre de rappel

Somehow I manage to get through the year without a trip to the doctor’s office. Then it’s time for a booster shot. And suddenly it seems I have a check-up or an appointment of some kind for several weeks running.

Keeping a body in good health is like a car, especially us older models: you keep it fueled, check the air, go lightly on the brakes, but every now and then you have to do the maintenance. Seems I’m in for a full oil change at the moment.

Maybe because he doesn’t see me so often, my GP tends to pull out the big guns whenever I go in with a minor complaint. This time it was nagging lower back pain that had started in the summer. He was off for a month’s holidays when it started, so by the time I got an appointment, it was almost better. Still, better safe than sorry. I got sent for blood work, urine analysis, x-ray and – okay, why not save time and get it now? – an MRI.

I also got a few prescriptions for minor ailments, and when I go back with my results next week, I’ll probably get a flu shot. Seems this year’s bug is looking like a humdinger, and although the medical community agrees the vaccine is a bit of a crap shoot, as they can only guess at its actual makeup, worst case is you only get 35% sick. I’ll take it.

The anti-vaxxer movement is starting to gain momentum France. I remember questioning the need for my kids to get so many shots when I first arrived. But immunization is obligatory here, and if you want your children to attend school you have to go with it. After a bit of fact-checking, I decided to put my faith with science.

Now France’s new government is boosting the number of ‘obligatory’ children’s vaccines to 11: polio, tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis b, influenza, meningitis and pneumococcal disease. Most of these were recommended anyway but the difference is that now they will be mandatory, and therefore, I assume, reimbursed. I get that people are concerned, and if I had young children would probably question the need for them too.

But the return of diseases like measles that were virtually eradicated in France is a legitimate public health concern for both young and old. Even though we oldsters survived many of them — in my case, measles, mumps and chicken pox. But hey, I also grew up a cloud of cigarette smoke.

This week I had an appointment for the dreaded MRI. You have to go to the hospital for this, and as I arrive I can’t help but notice that they always have a funeral parlour just across the street. Isn’t that a little pessimistic? Not to mention insensitive?

I’ve had MRI’s before, and figured this time would be a picnic as it was only for my lower back. Surely, given the fact that I always tick ‘claustrophobic’ on the questionnaire, they’d let me have my head sticking out of the tunnel? No such luck. The nurse pointed out that my head was almost at the end, and handed me a headset to block out the noise of the machine. The screech of obnoxious commercial radio combined with the strange magnetic noises of the imaging created a cacophony that made the whole experience even more unpleasant. But after a few brief moments of panic, the 15 minutes only felt like 30.

So far so good, although I’ll only get all the results back in a few days.

Hopefully now I’ll be good for another year.

Will you be getting a flu shot? Or avoiding the doctor like the plague?


  1. francetaste · October 5, 2017

    The last time there was a big flu outbreak, my kid and I got shots. As more people get shots, it drastically reduces the risk for those who don’t have shots–fewer people spreading–and helps squelch outbreaks.
    I lived in Africa in the mid-80s, I had the honor of meeting Donald Henderson, who led WHO’s smallpox program. I also saw plenty of people crippled by polio. Decades later, I revisited a home for kids who’d had polio–now they just have kids crippled by birth defects as polio was eradicated. I cried when Iearned that. Vaccines have made life immensely better.

    • MELewis · October 5, 2017

      What incredible memories you share from your time in Africa – vivid, unique and moving, although I’m sure not always without painful points. Those crippled kids are the best possible argument for scientific progress offered by medical science.

  2. Osyth · October 5, 2017

    In one of the villages near home in le Cantal, the funeral parlor shares premises with the ambulance station …. I’ll leave others to make their minds up as to whether that is tactless or sensible 😳 Last year in the States I seemed to spend much of my time having some or other medical procedure including two MRI (*15 minutes only seemed like 30* … superb) and this year, so far I have avoided any medical contact at all. The flu jab – yes, I’ll take it. I believe very strongly in prevention (even if it is a shot in the dark as it is with developing the vaccine each year for flu) and had all my children inoculated. I understand the concerns, of course I do but they are minimal and often not proven. Whereas I am old enough to remember measles killing a child I was at nursery school with ….

    • MELewis · October 5, 2017

      And on my side *a shot in the dark* – wish I’d thought of that! 😉 As usual, we are perfectly aligned!

      • Osyth · October 5, 2017

        Hurrah hurrah – I am glad to be aligned with you. Very glad xxx

  3. davidprosser · October 5, 2017

    I had my flu jab on Tuesday, once I get over some questionable blood tests on Friday I shall be back to trying to dodge my doctor for another 12 months.
    xxx Massive Hugs Mel xxx

    • MELewis · October 5, 2017

      Here’s hoping the flu shot is spot on and you ace the blood work, David! Good health is something we take for granted until it’s gone – then there’s nothing else we long for. Gros bisous xx

  4. phildange · October 5, 2017

    Hello Mel, this is a rather important question . Since a very long time (at least since the 60s) we had a trilogy of compulsory, universal and reimbursed vaccines for children that nobody contested : Diphteria, tetanus, polio . I remember growing up in the early 60s there were one or too poor lads whose misshappen body showed their parents had skipped the polio vaccine . Like all my pals I went trough every children disease that everybody found normal, measles, chicken pox, mumps, rubella, even whooping cough (i remember one I dreaded, scarlet fever because I saw some friends who really had a bad time with it, but I was spared) .

    And this is the point : everybody (and by then family doctors too) thought all these small diseases were a training camp for our body defence intelligence . It still seems obvious to me . Our body learnt how to manage with different sorts of aggressions and increased its intelligence of defence . So we could later sail towards subhuman continents and convert the poor primitives to the true faith with our body ready to fight any pagan seriously dangerous germ .

    It is obvious for me that new kids who are over-vaccined or treated with antibiotics for the slightest problems are really handicapped for their future (and short) life . I had a son,with a woman who was completely concerned by all that, she was a nurse, in the time when they were proposing (not mandatory yet) reimbursed whooping cough with the original DTPolio trilogy . My girl refused, our very young toddler caught the whooping thing, our doctor was a man I still consider as the highest master or the art of healing that I know, so he guided us with homeopathy and the baby went through this rather easily . Mind you, it is not the ubiquitous low range “homeopathy” you hear of everywhere now, homeopathy needs to be well understood and well used, but this doctor is an impressive master, serious .
    The result is the boy is now a man with a very good body who can travel in jungles without major troubles . I am happy I don’t have a kid now, because I fiercely think all these new mandatory vaccines are time bombs for the future Westerners . (The good point is, as the end of the world is near, it doesn’t matter much) .
    So about this flu vaccine with all its bad aspects, why not doing the homeopathic one ? My mother, who is 82, has been doing this every year, and she is OK with no inconveniences . You don’t need a “master” for it, a basic doctor can do because it is a well-known protocol . Of course, if you are older than my mother you should consult a specialist 😊

    • MELewis · October 5, 2017

      You raise some very interesting points, Phil. Medical research is increasingly pointing towards the gut microbiota as our greatest source of immunity and good health in general. How much our early experience with disease, along with diet and a whole bunch of other factors, play a role is still not well understood. However, on the other side, it can be argued that the world has changed, with travel and increasing time spent in large groups adding to the risk of mass epidemics. Viruses also mutate opportunistically for their own survival, just as super bugs evolve to overcome the antibiotics that are frequently over-used and abused in modern healthcare. As for homeopathy, I am glad that you were able to find an effective treatment for your son — and that your mother (whom I assume is a tad older than I!) manages to fight off the flu with it. I am open to such things, as I am to all ‘medicines douces’ but there are those to whom the mere mention of homeopathy evokes ideas of charlatans. I fear that my GP would not be well trained in the field but will at least ask his opinion. The last time I asked him about the flu shot, he admitted that he never got it himself. 😉

      • phildange · October 5, 2017

        I ended healing myself with homeopathy even while traveling in unhealthy tropical places, and with the advices of this super-therapeutist I was OK everywhere . The least aggressive treament that works is always the best . Our body has a consciousness to maintain harmony and many medicines do damage other organs and functions, and don’t let our body find and remember its defence . I saw so many examples of this “mechanic” ways of considering the body . And when you find yourself exposed to viruses mutations or to exotic dangerous diseases your body is like an unexperienced and weakened toddler . It is vital to harmonize the fundament of the body, I discovered all that rather late, thanks to some women, but by chance early enough . I can see the difference, I tell you . But this is only well done by a few therapeutists, it’s our job to find them .
        For sure a flu is terribly hard, and when we have no other choice we use the “mechanics” ways . I never regretted the old compulsory vaccines, tetanus and polio were awful . But nowadays, this “principe de précaution” we undergo in every field becomes a real pain . And can be counterproductive . Pardon me but I can’t help thinking of the weight of the huge labs in this business .
        I’d have different things to tell about healing I personally experimented, and a few friends’ experiences too . Enough to decide that “IF” I’m confronted to the situation when medical science tells me “all we can do now is softening your last year” I’ll go somewhere else . But this is a more extreme situation . Just in everyday’s life I’m am really better than when I was younger and ignorant of some realities. Sounds like a paradox, doesn’t it ?

  5. acflory · October 5, 2017

    Gah…MRI’s aren’t fun. Neither are some of the other tests the doctors love to order. I guess they have to justify their existence too. I’m sure the MRI is overkill so try not to stress. -hugs-

    • MELewis · October 5, 2017

      Thanks, Meeks. The MRI seems to have shown nothing more concerning than a semi-herniated disc. Vive universal healthcare!

      • acflory · October 5, 2017

        Yes! I’m so glad to hear you’ve got the all-clear, or at least 99% of it. I wonder if these doctors know how much emotional stress these tests cause.
        I got the all-clear on a colonoscopy a few months back, and it was as if a huge black cloud had lifted off my head.
        Would a chiropractor or physio be able to help with a herniated disc?

      • phildange · October 5, 2017

        In France chiropraxis is not that spread . Osteopathy is the very useful thing . But in both cases it is always the same rule : you got to find the very best ones, those who know and who feel deeply . I’m lucky I know two of these guys, one being the super-doctor I mentioned above . A clue with the really good ones is sometimes they say ” In this case you need a surgery, impossible to do something without it “. .

      • MELewis · October 6, 2017

        Actually I have an osteo who suggested I see the doctor after two treatments didn’t help much. So either she’s rather good and being cautious, or simply not able to help.

      • phildange · October 6, 2017

        Impossible to say from here . I found my two wisely efficient healers through friends who had gained my trust on this matter, and after that the healers gained mine through experience . The second part was really quick, but the first one, you know how it works, these things can take some time without a piece of luck .

      • acflory · October 6, 2017

        I agree. The last thing you want is a quack. 😦

      • MELewis · October 6, 2017

        Colonoscopy, yuck. And what a worry! Glad it’s good news. 🙂 Perhaps an MRI isn’t so bad after all….

      • acflory · October 6, 2017

        lol – certainly shorter. 😉

  6. poshbirdy · October 5, 2017

    Yuk! The dreaded MRI. I would always say that you should look at the results yourself as well. Certainly from my experiences in the UK some ‘consultants’ don’t know how to read them at all and can completely overlook the obvious problems, giving us a clean bill of health where they should not. And yes, I can back that up

    • MELewis · October 5, 2017

      Oh, dear….I sense a lot of pain lurking in that comment. Solid advice, which I intend to follow. Merci! x

  7. midihideaways · October 5, 2017

    Interesting thoughts – I did unfortunately catch the flu a few years ago, and I can honestly say that I have never ever felt as ill in my entire life as I felt then. It took quite some time to get over the illness, but I’m still in two minds about getting a flu shot…

    • MELewis · October 5, 2017

      We are so brainwashed by the idea that somehow the shot itself will make us ill (scientifically unfounded) that I understand your concern. But once burned, surely twice shy?

      • midihideaways · October 12, 2017

        I’m not against vaccinations, but deep down I feel that I’m not “old” enough yet for the flu shot. Same goes for varifocals! 🙂 Silly, really!

  8. coteetcampagne · October 5, 2017

    If you can get the flu jab, do so.

    I went down with a particularly virulent strain of the flu in late 1983. Not only did I lose three months of my life to it ( I don’t remember a thing ) but I couldn’t see or hold my baby son for virtually the whole duration of my illness.
    It was seriously bad news for him and me and we felt the repercussions for a long time.
    It’s a pernicious and debilitating illness and not to be dismissed lightly, as some do.
    Preserve me from idiots who say “I’ve got the flu” when all they have is a bloody cold!

    • MELewis · October 5, 2017

      How awful for you both. We are fortunate to have the shot available and covered in France. You have convinced me!

  9. Colin Bisset · October 5, 2017

    We’ve just had a winter of the superflu here in Australia, and quite a few deaths, including children. Made me consider a jab for the first time (didn’t act on it) but I did get rather obsessed about hand washing when I was out and about. Many supermarkets here also have anti-bacterial gel to wipe the handle of your shopping basket or trolley, although some gels are a problem now… I think I got PTSD from my one and only MRI visit. Breaking into a sweat just remembering it…:) Bon sante to you!

    • phildange · October 5, 2017

      Nice try but la santé is feminine, as well as its opposite, la maladie . Which might explain certain things …

      • Colin Bisset · October 5, 2017

        I thought that, the moment I pressed ‘send’ – it’s retribution for the number of times I make a withering tut when I read someone else’s hash of gender. I hang my head… 🙂

      • MELewis · October 6, 2017

        Ha! Cheeky beggar!

  10. Garfield Hug · October 5, 2017

    France is great to ensure all children has 11 shots. My lil red dot Singapore has prescribed shots for kids here too but not as many as 11. But we have shots for TB. TB has returned with a more virulent strain. Curious why France did not include it. Glad all is good at your end. Cheers to good health always.☺

    • MELewis · October 6, 2017

      Good point! Both my kids got it but I read that it’s no longer mandatory in France, except for high-risk individuals. But if it’s on the rise in Singapore, perhaps it will be back on the list here again soon. By the way, why do you call your homeland ‘red dot’?

      • Garfield Hug · October 6, 2017

        In answer to your question on lil red dot….some years back a President of Indonesia was sarcastic to us and told off our then PM Lee Kuan Yew that Singapore was nothing but a lil red dot. Unfazed, our PM Lee Kuan Yew rebutted him by saying we maybe a lil red dot but we are fiery like the lethal ‘chilli padi’ and whoever ‘eats’ us will spit it out as so spicy. Hence forth we use a sarcasm to be our marketing efforts of Singapore and we call selves lil red dot as we are a tiny island. I have scheduled a post on this to better explain why and I hope you will read it then. Many thanks for asking and reading 😊

      • MELewis · October 6, 2017

        I look forward to it! And your ex-PM sounds like my kind of guy!

      • Garfield Hug · October 6, 2017

        Yes…PM Lee Kuan Yew passed away in 2015 and all the world leaders flew in to pay their last respects. We admire him as he gave us modern Singapore. He still is our national idol even though he has passed.😃 have a good weekend and IGNORE your imbecile neighbor😉💕

      • MELewis · October 6, 2017

        Merci! 😜

  11. zipfslaw1 · October 6, 2017

    It amazes me that the same people who get sucked into anti-vaxxerism won’t hesitate to get an MRI, fly in an airplane, use a microwave oven, take antibiotics, go to the doctor to get that worrisome mole checked, and so on–but, somehow, when it comes to vaccines, they get into this magical thinking that vaccines are somehow different from MRIs, and antibiotics, and mole-checking, and so on… it’s all the same science–and microwave ovens, and planes, too, for crying out loud…

  12. MELewis · October 6, 2017

    True that! Although I do know people who’ve banned microwaves from their homes and will only take antibiotics on pain of death…. *sigh*

  13. Garfield Hug · October 6, 2017

    Nice to meet you virtually and I love reading your posts😃

  14. Lisa @ cheergerm · October 9, 2017

    MRI’s are weird hey? Good luck with the results. Get the flu jab! I didn’t and got very sick, over here it has been an horrendous flu season with three different virulent strands going around. It can turn into pneumonia as well. Eek! (The anti-vaxxers drive me nuts.)

    • MELewis · October 12, 2017

      Sorry to hear that you caught the dreaded flu, Lisa. I will take advantage of your experience as added evidence to make sure the whole family gets it. Not fun at all. And the MRI, well…it helps to remind oneself how lucky we are to have such technology. But I feel somehow like it is reading my innermost secrets. 😉

  15. Mél@nie · October 19, 2017

    @”will you be getting a flu shot?” – nope, we stopped getting it several years ago, and we’ve been just fine, never caught any cold or flu… pourvu que ça dure! 🙂

  16. alittlebitofingrid · October 22, 2017

    Wish I could have a month where I didn’t have two or three doctor’s appointments! As a chronic backpain patient with lots of radiating pains and related problems it’s always something and when the ball gets rolling there’s just no stopping it, could easily just throw my money into the air I think sometimes💸🤣but am glad we have such good health care and am fortunate to even have choice which doctor to go to when needed, a luxury many don’t have…

    • MELewis · October 22, 2017

      Sorry to hear that pain is part your day to day. I am lucky that none of my tests have shown anything serious, and my pain is far from debilitating. But I have close family members with chronic pain so I’ve experienced first hand how draining that can be. But like you, they have decided not to be defined by it. Bravo!

      • alittlebitofingrid · November 29, 2017

        Thanks for your reply and support, means a lot! Sorry for the late reply, took me a while to pick up blogging again and had some rather bad weeks and several trips to the hospital, hope things turn again now, staying positive😉 enjoy your day!

  17. M. K. Waller · October 24, 2017

    I skipped the flu shot in fall 1976, had flu in spring 1977, it was bad, haven’t skipped one since. I always answer that I’m claustrophobic. They always put me in the little tube and leave me there for as long as they wish. (Why do they bother to ask?) Chickenpox and mumps weren’t too bad, but I wouldn’t wish measles on anyone.

    • MELewis · October 25, 2017

      Oh, dear…I’ll learn from your mistake and get that flu shot! As for the MRI – you’re right. No idea why they bother asking if they’re not going to help you in any way. When I had one done in a private hospital last time, they were considerate about giving me a panic button and playing soothing music, but at the public hospital this time it was grin and bear it with horrible scratchy commercial radio.

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