Diary of a hypochondriac


Returning after a holiday is never easy, the break inevitably bringing the utter pointlessness of work into sharp focus, but this time it is physical rather than existential distress that ails me. After two weeks of unbroken relaxation (albeit punctuated by disastrous runs at blackjack and roulette tables in London and Normandy), I am horribly run down and have developed a nasty ache in the lower back.


Awoken shortly before 7.30am by a small boy with a model InterCity 125, I am exhausted to the point of collapse. "It's not natural to be this tired," I tell Rebecca.

"And what time did you get in from the casino?"

"About 4.30."

"So how much sleep did you get in all?"

"Two and a half hours."

"I see. And why do you think you're so shattered?"

"Leukemia? You think it's leukemia, don't you?"


While towelling off after a shower, I analyse the twinge in the lower back. It is not a hot or acute pain, more a nagging ache, like a stitch. I now wonder if the cause of my tiredness is a tumour on the kidney - a terrifying disease albeit eminently curable if caught before spreading. And yet, how could it be? How could you have a tumour on a vital organ with no more dramatic symptom than a twinge in the back? No, for once I am worrying needlessly.


In today's Sun is a long piece about the broadcaster James Whale and his surgeon Tim O'Brien. "Tim told James he had a cancer after the star went to his GP complaining about a 'twinge' in his back," it reads. "A cancerous tumour 1ft long and 5in wide had devoured his left kidney."


During a fretful morning, I am soothed by the recollection that Kerry Packer also had a kidney removed about 12 years ago, and he's still around to give the Las Vegas casinos the occasional $15m hammering. On reflection, perhaps success at blackjack and a predisposition towards renal cancer are linked, on the old "lucky at cards, unlucky at cancer" rule of thumb. If so, with my form, I should have nothing to fear.


I awake exhausted and traumatised after a night too short to be troubled, having returned late from the refurbished Victoria casino.

"How badly did you do them?" asks Rebecca, with a reference to my standard post-Casino remark ("I did me orchestras").

"I didn't do them at all," I reply tersely. "I won."

"You're kidding. Roulette?"

"Blackjack. I couldn't lose a hand." She looks at me with concern. "I'll call Sarah and make an appointment," she says.


Dr Sarah Jarvis listens to the details. "Rebecca mentioned you've been tired lately," she says, "especially after nights at the casino. When you play blackjack, do you sit down?"

"Sometimes. But not usually."

"And when you go to the casino, how long do you gamble for?"

"Not long. Five or six hours."

"So you're on your feet for ages in a state of tension?"

"Sorry, you've lost me."

"And the next day you have backache."



"Go home," she says.

"But a urine sample to check for blood?"

"Go home. Skip the casino for a week, and if it's still sore, come back. But now go home. Please."

I go home, mulling carefully over the doctor's advice, and prepare for another long night at the tables.

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


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