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Oh, doctor, it hurts when I do this...
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Hello, my name is Jim and I’m a hypochondriac.

I can’t help it; if there’s some dread disease out there, I’ve probably had it. At least, I’ve stayed up nights convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt that I had it. Never mind that I refuse to see the doctor about it. I mean, why should I? She’s only going to tell me what I already know: I’m doomed.

Then she’s going to hit me with a hammer. I can get that at home for free.

Someone coined the phrase “cyberchondriac” awhile back -- that’s someone who surfs the Internet looking up symptoms he thinks he’s having – and they usually are attached to the most horrifying medical conditions ever described. That discolored toenail is not athlete’s foot; it’s degenerative liver disease caused by a tiny parasite that got into one cow that was grazing in a wet wheat field in Ontario last year. After it eats your liver, it will bore holes into your brain, which will at least make you forget about your liver.

Here’s a typical moment during an especially pernicious bout of insomnia, which undoubtedly is symptomatic of something else, too. My inner doctor will go over everything I’ve noticed in the past week and instantly transform those observations into dire prognostications of doom.

Think that’s a freckle, Jimbo? Forget it; it’s undoubtedly some hideous, fast-moving and utterly incurable cancer caused by all those summers running around with no shirt on when you were a kid.

Chest pain? Forget any silly notions of indigestion; your heart’s about to explode like a baked potato left in the microwave too long. Don’t try to burp; it will only give you a hiatal hernia, or worse, a false sense of security.

Neck hurts, huh? Well, that mosquito you slapped earlier was undoubtedly carrying equine encephalitis. Expect your brain to swell and your arms and legs to wither and spaz out at any moment now.

That’s right, kiddo -- you’re getting ready to punch that ticket for a one-way trip to the marble orchard. You’re going to be trying on wooden sleeping bags any minute. Don’t even bother to wash those collards because you might as well get used to the taste of dirt. BUWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!

Never read anything on right before bedtime. That’s just friendly advice.

So right now it’s high noon, broad daylight, and I’m reading the latest scare, which is that apparently, my cell phone and my kosher dill pickle have joined the list of things on this planet, both natural and man-made, that are conspiring to kill me at any time in a horrific manner. Apparently, if I call in for takeout, say a ham and Swiss on rye, which usually comes with a pickle, I’m going to die, either of a brain tumor caused by the cell phone, or squamous esophageal carcinoma caused by the pickle.

I swear, who comes up with these pronouncements? More to the point, who in the world would study cellphone battery death rays or free radicals in pickles? And what on earth is going to be next? Will they discover, say, that toilet paper causes cancer and suggest we all go back to corncobs and oak leaves or worse, “be a man and use your hand?”

What else am I going to have to give up in order to get some sleep around here?

I decided a long time ago I would start smoking again on my 80th birthday. I cut back on the booze, avoid fried food, stuff myself silly with pounds of fiber -- because a healthy colon is a happy colon – and now slather on pounds and pounds of SPF 5000 sunscreen before hitting the beach in my suit of armor -- which might very well give me heavy metal poisoning, anyway.

Thank God wine is good for you -- it’s apparently good for your heart as well as your attitude.

As my hero, also a man of letters and fellow hypochondriac, the late, great Lewis Grizzard once said, “I think I’ll go stare death in the eye -- I’m going to go on over to the Waffle House and drool for a little while.”

I hear you, Lewis. I think I’ll go home and down a bottle or two of heart medicine.