I'm sure you've all been waiting with bated breath to hear the latest in my quest to return to France. The verdict is that unfortunately this isn't my year to spend in France. I couldn't find a job that would keep me there, or to be more precise, a job I was willing to take that would keep me there (meaning not a bilingual secretary position or one that would have required a student visa and only in the Paris region).
BUT, that does not mean I am never coming back.
The plan for this year is to stay in the US, take some classes, work a little, and spend some quality time with the American health non-system. I'll be enrolling as a non-degree seeking graduate student and taking biology and chemistry and their labs, and hopefully a couple of other classes in history and anthropology if the professors ever get back to me about getting an override so that I can get in despite the fact that they are already full. Job wise, I may be working as an ESL tutor in the public schools here. We have a huge population of international students because many adults with families come from abroad to seek graduate degrees at the university and then their kids end up in the public school system and need to learn English. There's an orientation/information session next Tuesday so I'll know more about it then. It probably pays pretty badly, but I'm used to being paid badly to teach kids English. At least I know that the English classes will be a priority here!
I will also be getting some neat-o high tech treatments while I'm home to make "my" immune system start behaving itself. For the past couple of months I've been experiencing a flare-up what is called graft versus host disease, or GVHD. Because the immune system I have isn't a perfect genetic match for the rest of my cells, it can start thinking that my cells are invaders and attacking them, and that is called GVHD. I have very mild GVHD, basically mild skin tightening and darkening. I'm lucky that that's all I have, it can get worse, for example, joint tightening and lung problems. Unfortunately there are very few options for bringing GVHD under control. The number one option for many years was high doses of steroids (prednisone specifically). Been there, done that, it SUCKS and I refuse to do it again. Now a new kind of space age medical treatment called extracorporeal photopheresis, or ECP is quickly becoming front-line treatment because it doesn't have all of the terrible side effects of high dose steroids. You can read about what actually happens during ECP in the link above, the most simple explanation it's a blood treatment and takes about 4 hours. ECP not only stops the GVHD reaction, it prevents it from occurring again, and improves GVHD symptoms, joints loosen up and skin regains its normal color. The mechanism by which this happens is not fully understood so I'm part of a research study that is looking at how my white blood cells change during the course of treatment. I've gotten ECP treatment before both in the US and in France (which was a complete disaster, thank you bitch nurses) so this isn't anything new to me. The annoying part is that it takes up so much time, right now I'm getting two half-day sessions every two weeks, although that will probably switch to one session every week once classes start up.
Why is it necessary to do anything about this mild GVHD that only makes my skin funny colors? Because GVHD left to its own devices will slowly but surely progress into more serious forms that involve joints and other organs, and that would be very bad. By going through treatment I will prevent that by nipping GVHD in the bud now while it's still mild. I'm also still on immunosuppressants from my transplant almost four years ago, and hopefully once the ECP has controlled the GVHD and I'll be able to finally get off the immunosuppressants..... and then get off my other meds ....... and then get some vaccines...... and then .... I don't know what comes next. Anyway, best not to count my chickens before they've hatched.
So how exactly am I planning to return to France? I'm going to try to do an internship in Paris next summer, maybe combined with taking classes. That way I could spend many months in France since classes here will be over at the end of April, I could visit my students before school gets out, and I would have the entire summer to travel, I could even take a whole month at the beginning or end to travel. Leesa, are you listening??!!! I have some ideas for spending the next school year in France as well, but it's all theoretical, at this point my first goal is a summer stage and then on verra.
In the meantime I will be here, trying to have a social life but also trying not to let my roots grow too deep in the ground. More about that next time, because this post is already too long and if you stuck it out to the end, good for you.