Jan 16, 2014

Half-Naked Medical Party: Sein de Nounou


It's time for my annual check-up, but that means a slightly different dress code here in France. I go to the appointment expecting to strip down and put on the humiliating hospital gown. But in France, I simply strip down -- but only the necessary portion -- and hope the room is heated to my liking.

As I'm at a clinic, and different specialists will see me for different purposes, I find myself in the room for my annual mammogram in jeans but without my shirt or bra. I must admit that I'm slightly tempted to break the tension (which is on my side, purely, as the doctor's couldn't care less) by doing a little shimmy-shimmy. Then for my pelvic exam, I strip off my jeans and underwear, but hang out talking to the doctor in my cute sweater-top combo with socks. It's a look. It's exactly like those stress nightmares you have where you show up at work thinking all is well but then discover you've forgotten to wear pants.

So here's what I look like for my pelvic exam:

And here's what I look like for my mammogram:

It turns out they notice a lot of calcium deposits in my breasts, which I explain by saying that I nursed my children for a long time. This gets huge guffaws from the doctor, as it turns out in French there are two words for nursing (basically "allaiter" which is the act of feeding and "téter" which is the act of suckling) and of course I have used the wrong one. After the laughter subsides, they tell me that because of the calcium, I have to go in for a biopsy.

This does not cause me great alarm as I had the same thing happen six years ago, and they were found to be nothing more than calcium deposits leftover (probably) from breastfeeding (feeding, that is, not suckling). The Parisian X-rays show no signs of any cancer, but they do want to determine if there's anything pre-cancerous to worry about. So I get some happy drugs and hang out in my jeans and socks -- again, no hospital gown -- for my needle biopsy. The results: I giggle a lot till the drugs wear off; I end up with quite a black-and-blue mark; and I have a clean bill of health -- no cancer and nothing pre-cancerous. So, nothing to worry about till about five years from now or so, when they take out another chunk to test the calcium; at this rate, I feel like I'll be getting a gradual mastectomy anyway, so that by the time they find anything cancerous, there will be no left breast left.

THE CHEESE: Sein de Nounou

Sure, it's sometimes called Barbeillon, and that may be its original name. But whatever marketing guru came up with Sein de ma Nounou, or Sein de Nounou, is a genius, because it really makes me notice and want to buy the cheese. This means -- not too surprisingly but somewhat disturbingly -- "My Wetnurse's Breast" or simply "Wetnurse's Breast"; it doesn't take a Ph.D. to figure out why.
It's a raw goat's milk cheese that's salted and covered with ash, hailing from Loir-et-Cher, in central France. The more famous Selles-sur-Cher comes from the same region and is a similar cheese. The dark ashy crust is meant to be eaten along with the white, crumbly interior. It's got a salty, lightly acid goaty flavor that gets stronger (and crumblier) as it ages, for a minimum of 3-4 weeks. Over time, it shrivels and wrinkles, which of course is just part of the appeal of its name.

Besides the obvious connection of pairing a boob-shaped cheese with a story about mammograms, I would also like to point out that it turns out that my own breast, like Sein de Nounou, is chock full of calcium.


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