Diary of a hypochondriac


It is many weeks since I last reviewed my state of health on paper like this, but that is hardly an indicator that I have been well. Far from it: for almost two months I have been assailed unceasingly by a sequence of nasty virusy symptoms - mild fever, achy limbs, heightened sensitivity to sound, taut scalp - that have rendered me weak and wretched. Until now I had assumed that my immune system was suppressed because I was run down, but a particularly virulent bug drove me to bed for most of last week and I begin to wonder if it might not be something more sinister.


Yet again I awake drained and sluggish despite having passed an untroubled night. It isn't drink, and although my breathing remains far from perfect, it has mystifyingly improved since I cancelled both conventional and laser surgery on my significantly deviated septum in February. I am seldom one to jump the diagnostic gun, but a lymphatic cancer would explain things, albeit I have yet to suffer that classic lymphoma symptom, the night sweat.


When I complain over dinner of feeling lousy, Rebecca continues to read the Jane Austen novel which lies open in front of her on the table, while forking dainty morsels of kedgeree into her mouth. I repeat my point, louder.

"Yes, I heard you the first time," replies my wife, elegantly flipping over a page with her fork. "If you're that ill, why don't you sod off to bed?"

Pausing only to say what enchanting news it is that the delicacy of Jane Austen's prose is rubbing off on her like this, I collect a bottle of Glenlivet and morosely head upstairs as advised by W12's very own Emma Woodhouse.


Last night there came the night sweat. Or rather, when I awoke at 3.30am from a nightmare (I was a roadie for the neo-punk band Mandy's Chinless Wonders , who had just had a big hit with Lymphomaniac), my neck and surrounding areas were drenched. After breakfast, I call the Grove surgery and am told that Dr Jarvis now does "walk-in clinics" on Mondays and Fridays, and would I like to pop in? No I would not. A patient of my long service and stature? "Pop in"? I have arranged to see Dr Jarvis at the emergency clinic tomorrow. Pop in, indeed.


As I enter Room 19, Dr Jarvis makes a Pavlovian lunge for the latex gloves, but when I explain the problem she begins a thorough inspection of the neck and surrounding areas.

"It's lymphoma, isn't it?" I say. "You've found a lump the size of a golf ball, and I have six to nine months."

"I haven't found a damn thing," she says, sitting down. "You haven't got lymphoma. Your lymph nodes are all normal. You're fine."

"In that case," I ask her, "explain the night sweat."

"That would be the night you drank a third of a bottle of 12-year-old malt, would it?"

Clearly, she has been speaking to Rebecca behind my back.

"Have you heard of Hippocrates of Cos?" I ask her.

Ignoring this with all the insouciance of one reading Jane Austen at dinner, she goes on: "As for the tiredness, have you thought about losing some weight and going to the gym?"

Of course I bleeding well have. For years I've thought of little else. Doing it, that's the problem.


By way of inaugurating a new health regime, I clear out my bathroom chest, throwing away many old friends - antioxidants, omega fish oils, zinc enzymes, high protein fibre tablets, and vitamins A, B, C D and E - that are past their sell-by date. Some of the bottles are baffling. A preparation for menstrual cramps takes some explaining, as does the contact lens cleanser, which passed its best in 1994. I have never worn contacts.


In order to replenish stocks, I pay a visit to the Mortar and Pestle pharmacy on Kensington High Street, where Dipak smiles good-naturedly as I ask him about the efficacy of various pills.

We have been going through this ritual for years: I ask him if they're any good, and he - too tactful to voice the obvious truth - smiles sweetly. Of course, what I am really asking Dipak to tell me is what I want to hear from Dr Jarvis: that death is something which, with a bit of luck and the right pills, I should be able to avoid. But Dipak can tell me no such thing.

"And this milk thistle, or silybum marianum?" I inquire. Dipak smiles and says nothing.

"It's completely useless, isn't it?"

"It's a tonic," he says, "for the liver."

"Absolutely useless, then, for me?"

Dipak smiles again. "Utterly," he says. "And how many bottles do you want?"

"Just the two, for now," I reply. "Let's just see how it goes."

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


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