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Saturday, 30 October 2010


“I’ve got a tumour,” said one of my best friends, bursting through my front door, clearly dispensing with the preamble.

“A what?” I tried to feign interest, never diverting my eyes from the television screen.

“A tumour, in my head, my whole head. I’ve probably head cancer.”

“You’ve got what?” I asked, this time hitting the pause button on my dvd and going to the fridge for wine. I felt it was the least I could do.

“I’ve got this thing in my mouth,” he said, getting out two wine glasses, “and it’s been there for ages but I’ve been ignoring it.

“My head feels funny, I feel a bit weird, it’s my throat, there’s a growth…” the words came tumbling out as fast as the wine tumbled out of the bottle.

So I asked the logical question.

“Did you go to the doctor today and is this what she told you?”

“No,” he replied, “I’m going to the doctor tonight. But I researched all my symptoms on the internet and it looks like mouth cancer.”

The World Wide Web has made doctors of us all. We can diagnose every symptom. All we need is the training on how to make people wait around for ages in their underwear, and then we’d all be medical practitioners.

I’m no better. A few years ago, I noticed that every time I got out of bed, or stood up too quickly, I would get a dizzy spell. Or if someone called my name, and I spun my head around to see who it was. Once it happened when I was wearing heels, but to be fair, they were ridiculous high.

It was around the time that this story was being emailed to all and sundry about some poor fellow who, after seeking extensive medical treatment for his constant headaches, discovered he had a brain full of maggots. They said it had something to do with eating too much sushi. Urban legend? I don’t know.

But the story stuck.

And I like sushi. And I had a weird head. So naturally, I concluded that I, too, had been afflicted with the same condition.

Without even consulting a GP, I rang my nearest hospital and booked an MRI. It was just as I was getting in my car to go to the appointment, that a very dear friend gently suggested that perhaps a little visit to her friendly GP (“gorgeous woman, you’ll just love her”) might be the better course of action.

It was. I had an inner ear infection. Not a filthy disgusting maggot in sight.

Another time, the tip of my left index finger went numb. Stone cold motherless numb. It freaked me out a bit. I was a smoker at the time, and it scared me more because I had to hold my fag in the other hand. For anyone who has ever smoked, you’ll know what I mean.

So I did the only logical thing and hopped on the internet and typed in my symptoms.

According to Dr Google, I was having a stroke.

Oh great, I thought, and I’m not even 40!

Google helpfully directed me to a site where I could conduct some basic checks to see whether or not the stroke diagnosis was correct.

First I had to read aloud some sentence that scrolled across my screen. Then I had to throw both my arms above my head and expel air. There were a couple of other checks, which I can’t remember but they involved something to do with eyesight and reflex.

What I can remember is being able to do all these exercises easily. Ah, I thought, with the wisdom you get from watching Grey’s Anatomy and ER, it’s still a stroke, it’s just not fully happening yet. But it will.

Did I call a doctor or a friend? Or even an ambulance? No, I just sat miserably in my home and waited for the inevitable.

Which of course, never came. My finger went numb because I had squashed some nerves by carrying too many plastic grocery bags loaded with food. And after about a week, it went back to normal.

And my friend? No, he doesn’t have cancer. Or a tumour. Or anything serious. A couple of wisdom teeth needed extracting. He’s fine.

Which, of course, was another great reason to crack open some wine!

1 comment:

  1. Indeed! You can convince yourself you're clinically dead if you Google hard enough!