The life besides the disease

Hospital Saint-Louis - Paris 11 Credit : Ed Ogle (Flickr)

Dealing with a long-term disease is sometimes the main struggle some will face in a lifetime. Beyond the only physical aspect, it would be interesting to analyse the impact on the life after the disease, how to manage the social life in order to fight the disease psychologically.
I’ve interviewed a woman, Ms Saint, affected by breast cancer since 2012, between medical consultations at the Saint-Louis Hospital (Paris 11) to ask her how does she manage the disease?


Hôpital St-Louis -Paris 10  / Credit: Ed Ogle (Flickr)
  • How long have you been harmed by the disease?

“I was diagnosed with breast cancer for the past 5 years. Cancer early signs appeared in March 2012, at the age of 44. I’ve been operated then receive chemotherapy treatment, brachytherapy, and radiation therapy sessions. I started to pick up my profession at part time, then at full time. After 18 months of the disease remission, a relapse on the bones was diagnosed in 2015. I was under an intensive radiotherapy treatment following another surgery. I’m still on chemotherapy since April 2015. I’ve been on sick leave since.”

  • What are your main occupations during your leisure time?

“Medical treatments, examinations, and appointments at the hospital usually fill a lot of time during the week. Side effects management change considerably the lifestyle. Due to the advanced state of the disease, we can’t live on the same cadence.
On more personal matters, I take care of my family daily life, being a mother of three. I also, enjoy, as much as I can, to read, enjoy some classical music, or walks in the city centre, discover more about my home city.”

Going for a walk helps fight psychologically / Credit : Paolo Piccoli (Flickr)
  • What part of your active life do you miss the most?

“I’m an insurance expert in the real-estate business. My daily professional life was about driving to various clients needing a valuation of their property losses. What misses me the most as a professional is the brutal loss of social relations (with both clients and co-workers). I enjoyed particularly to stay in movement, to move all around the city from one appointment to another one. I had to adapt to this new life, where I have to stay at home which is a difficult thing to accommodate. This is psychologically challenging. We often feel like living outside society.”

  • What advantages does the French state provide for long-term disease concerning the loss of revenue?

“I’ve not been dismissed due to my condition. I’m still employed by the company with a particular status: the company is one of the leaders of the insurance market, allowing it to cover fully my sick leave. Prior to this job, I was employed in a small company (20 employees). This company couldn’t have provided me with these sick leave and would have dismissed. I consider myself lucky regarding this aspect and the benefices from the French State. My salary was maintained for three years, on the behalf of daily compensations paid off by Social security. Long-term diseases are fully covered by the tax credits. After these 3 years, social security stopped to pay these allowances, and classify me as “invalid” or disabled.

Employers and employees pay a compulsory levy on the salary allowing to finance social security budget on the behalf of solidarity.”

  • Is there an associative life allowing to help patients? Psychologically and for the path for employment?

“The hospital offers a structure to the patients allowing them to not cut deeply social relations. Then, I discovered fencing within the hospital and subscribed to this sport for a year in a private club. Fencing, nordic walking, tennis, lecture, make-up are essential first steps to psychological recovery.
In terms of work, a lot of associations inside the medical structure offer help and support during the disease and before resuming work (as, Maison du Handicap).”

Credit: Eugene Kim (Flickr)
  • How to deal with the social life?

“The love from our family is basically the most important thing to manage the disease. But, social life management main criteria during disease remain the patient personality. Being very positive, a fighter and outgoing, I managed to keep close ties with my colleagues. I often received visits to go out for a cup of coffee or some restaurants and phone calls. In my experience, not losing ties with friends and the co-workers was the best tool to recovery despite some difficult times.
Other people concerned affected by cancer may have lost relations, because we face the fact that some friends left you behind. It’s a bit of a “double penalty”. Again associative life within the hospital is essential to create new relationships, some who truly understand what we are going through.”

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