Diary of a hypochondriac

Friday: Something is going on in my throat, and I don't like it. I noticed the obstruction, to the right of the Adam's apple, a few weeks ago while re-reading John Diamond's book, C: Because Cowards Get Cancer Too, after he died.

Saturday: The psychosomatic explanation is too obvious and yet, in my mind's eye, I see a sentence from the obituary: "Norman first noticed his cancer in March 2001," it reads, "but, irony of ironies, mistakenly believed it was a psychosomatic reaction to the death from throat cancer of his friend John Diamond. It was this unwonted reticence about seeking medical advice, his doctor, Sarah Jarvis, suspects, that cost him his life."

Sunday: Sorely troubled night gives way to fractious morning. "You're not worrying about your throat again, surely," says Rebecca as she scrapes the seeds from her melon. "Don't tell me that's why you keep pushing that chopstick down your throat?" "Not at all," I tell her. "That's because I've mislaid half a Peking duck, and thought it might be in my throat."

She is rising from the table now. "And a bowl of hoi sin sauce," I continue, and am poised to mention the pancakes when the butter dish hits the floor and I head robotically for dustpan and brush.

Monday: One amazing thing about the human mind is that, when it comes to aping real symptoms of real illness, there is little it cannot do. My first serious health scare came at the age of 20 when, after being reminded that I was born with systolic murmur (a hole in the heart), I concluded that the organ was failing and needed replacement. I spent the next 12 months in torment, too petrified to see a doctor despite constant pain in the chest and left shoulder and numbness in the left arm. All classic cardiac symptoms, of course, like the oedema on my left ankle. Only when I began breakfasting on neat whisky did I go to my then GP Sonia Robinson at the Jackson's Lane surgery in Highgate. She listened to my heart, had me run up and down some stairs, declared me in perfect health and asked if I might consider talking to a therapist.

Within an hour the pain and numbness had vanished. A week later, the ankle swelling had gone too. I never did see that therapist.

Tuesday: The obstruction continues to come and go. It comes when I remember it, and goes when I forget. I am blissfully unaware of it, then I recall the blockage and am terrorised by the sensation of malignant cells pulsating away.

Wednesday: For the first time in months on my own account (I have been in touch regarding a boy of my acquaintance) I call the Grove clinic to learn that the first appointment is not until tomorrow at 5.30pm, and with an unfamiliar name. "This Dr Thompson," I ask the receptionist, "Where did he do his training? How long has he ... Hello??"

Thursday: I am inspecting the pictures of Mr Tony Blair's visit to the Grove when I am called to room 23. It is years since I saw a new doctor and I am keen not to alarm him when he asks after the problem.

"Oh, just a spot of throat cancer," I say. Dr Thompson, a friendly chap of much my own age and half the weight, seems startled. Why would I assume something so drastic, he inquires, instead of a sore throat or virus? It is my turn to look baffled.

He then examines the lymph nodes, none of which are enlarged, and looks down my throat, in which he sees nothing unusual. "The thing about this," he begins, "is that it's probably psychosomatic." I interrupt: "And what if it isn't?" He asks if I've ever considered that I might tend towards hypochondria. The theory has occurred, I reply. He asks me to return in 10 days if I'm still worried. As I head for the car, I swallow carefully and it's still there. Like General MacArthur and Mohammed Ali, it seems, I shall return.

Thanks to guardian.co.uk who have provided this article. View the original here.


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