Diary of a hypochondriac


The nagging, stitch-like pain in the lower back persists, and I suspect that the kidney tumour has now grown to the size of a mango. Dr Sarah Jarvis disagrees, and thinks it is nothing more than backache, but says that if I am concerned I should give a urine sample for analysis. Ha ha. Very droll.


This morning, Dr Jarvis is good-humoured when I call, but to the point. "I can't talk, I have a patient waiting," she says. "You know, 'patient'? One of those sick people?" When I mention the kidney, she sighs. "You don't have renal cancer." "Do." "You do not." "Do too. Do too? What am I now? Marsha Brady?" "You have backache," she says, " but if you are worried, come in and do a sample." She sounds translucently bored. "No, that's quite all right doctor," I reply, "no need for that." The thing about giving samples is, you have no idea what they might find.


This morning, the doctor's heroic patience evaporates further. "If you are concerned about the kidney," she says, extremely slowly, like a traffic cop directing an au pair newly arrived from Helsinki to Carnaby Street, "come . . . in... and... do... a... urine... sample." A silence ensues. "What really gets to me is the boredom," says Dr Jarvis eventually. "This is the seventh time in a fortnight you've asked about the same thing. It's the repetitiveness. Can't you come up with something new? You haven't presented anything new for years. Literally, years."

Reflecting on this, I realise the doctor is right. In the nine years since she succeeded the excellent Fleur Navey as my doctor, I must have consulted her 300-400 times, but about so few things - deviated septum, ear infections (otitis media and externa), bronchitis, flu, cancers of the brain, testes, rectum, colon, stomach, blood and latterly kidney, arterial blockages, motor neurone disease, that persistent lump in the roof of my mouth... all the usual suspects, brought in for questioning time and again, and released without charge. I can see why she's bored.

Although for once my back is relatively free of pain, I am exhausted. A small boy in our house, we discover today, has a spiral fracture of his left leg from ankle to knee, and he appears to view this as an excuse for the entire family to stay up until 3am watching The Railway Children. Therefore I have had to postpone a trawl through my medical textbooks to find something recherche to revive Dr Jarvis's jaded palate.


Interrupted in the middle of her emergency clinic, the doctor is to the point. "What now?" "Something new - a strange tingling in the extremities. Touching anything, however soft, puts my teeth on edge. I've never had that before." "Yes you have." "I don't think so." "Hang on..." Fingers click audibly on computer keyboard... "May 29 1998, complains of tingling in fingers and teeth being on edge." Now I think of it, it does ring a bell. "And I diagnosed eve of world cup over-excitability. Is there a big football tournament this summer?" "Right, goodbye then, doctor. Thank you very much."


Tonight, finally, I spend time with my medical dictionaries, and eventually discover something new that I suffer from. Condylomata acuminata, it's called, and it needs prompt treatment. Poised to ring the doctor when, re-reading the entry more closely, I notice that condylomata acuminata is the technical term for vaginal warts.


I awake feeling nervy and unsettled, having passed a troubled night. In a dream, I am in the Hammersmith hospital's radiology department. "Yes, yes," says a young doctor, smugly, "your brain is fine. Absolutely fine." But on leaving the room, I become extremely confused - the result, I realise, of a mango-sized frontal lobe tumour of a type caused by brain cells becoming so bored with themselves that they change character in a quest for light relief.

I bump into a woman. "Excusing me, please, but I coming from Helsinki and know not where to go for to be becoming more and more interesting?" I say. "Go... that... way, yes," says Dr Jarvis, very slowly, "around... corner... and... straight... on." I follow the direction. Around the corner is a sign with an arrow pointing to one vast door at the end of the corridor. "Morgue," it says.

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


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