Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Hyochondriac's Compendium by W. Bruce Cameron

Because I'm technically over 40, it's been a bad year for me health-wise. I've had a host of ailments, including appendicitis attack, spleen disruptions, and liver migrations, all made worse by the fact that my doctor doesn't agree that I've had any of them. Instead, he says I have mild hypochondria, which is silly—I have *major* hypochondria!

A hypochondriac is a person who gets a disease by hearing about it. So when, for example, I heard about a rare disease called Cornu Cutaneum, in which a four-inch horn grows out of the center of one's forehead, I knew for certain I had it. Panicked because I didn't think I could make a living as a rhinoceros, I phoned my doctor and told him I had all the symptoms of the illness.

"You have a four-inch horn growing from your head?" he demanded.

"All the symptoms except that one," I amended.


"Like, I'm starting to find elephant skin very attractive, and I have an increasing urge to head-butt a Land Rover."

"All right," my doctor said after a lengthy pause, "put sun block on the affected area."

"And that will cure it?"

"Can't hurt," the doctor said hippocratically.

I've also got the Ebola virus, where one's body basically just falls apart, something that has been happening to me since I turned 30. There's no known cure, though my doctor has prescribed diet and exercise, which he says can't hurt. I disagree; exercise does hurt, and probably makes my Ebola worse to boot.

Possibly the worst affliction I've had so far this year is Alien-Hand Syndrome, where my right hand, strictly on its own, tries to kill me via strangulation or donuts. I've watched, mesmerized, as my hand spookily reaches into a box and pulls out a chocolate-covered custard-filled bismark, which you know has to be even worse for you than a donut because they taste even better. You'll recall that Dr. Strangelove, played by Peter Sellers, had Alien-Hand Syndrome, and that the movie ended with total nuclear annihilation, though my doctor isn't sure that's going to happen in my case.

"Your hand has tried to strangle you? Honestly?" he asks skeptically after the nurse puts me through in the name of preventing the destruction of the planet.

"I think it has tried to strangle me DIShonestly," I correct. "It pretends to be just lying there. I think it's waiting for me to fall asleep."

"How do you know you've got this rare syndrome?"

"Because," I say triumphantly, "the rest of me has Akinetic Mutism!"

Sufferers of Akinetic Mutism are awake and conscious, but lie around unmoving and unresponsive, like a man watching golf on television. My problem was that except for my Alien Hand reaching for a donut and occasional trips to the mirror to make sure the sun block was keeping the rhino horn at bay, I'd pretty much done nothing but nap all weekend, even though I had lots of work to do.

"If you had Akinetic Mutism, you wouldn't be able to make this phone call—that's where the mutism part comes from," my doctor tells me.

"So I have *talking* mutism?"

"Tell you what. When you suffer from this condition, are you by any chance holding the TV remote?"

"No," I answer defensively. "My Alien Hand is holding the remote. I have no control."

"Try unplugging the television."

"That…seems kind of radical," I reply faintly.

"Can't hurt."

I'm not so sure—what would my Alien Hand do to me if I rendered the remote useless?

"You seem to be catching a lot of strange diseases, lately. Have you been reading about rare disorders, or something?"

"No, not at all! Well, there is this one book."

"What's it called?"

"Rare Disorders."

"Ah. I'd like you to send it to me," my doctor requested.

"So you can provide better treatment?"

"Sending it to me is the treatment. I think getting it out of your Alien Hands would be good for you, you seem to catch whatever you read about."

That's when he explained that I had hypochondria, which I found in the book right next to hyponatremia, whose symptoms include fatigue, listlessness, and apathy.

I decide I'll send him the book later—right now I just don't feel like doing it.


From The Cameron Column, a free Internet newsletter:

Copyright W. Bruce Cameron 2011. Permission is granted to send this to others, with attribution, but not for commercial purposes.

Bruce's latest book is the New York Times best-selling novel "A Dog's Purpose":

He is also the author of these recommended books:

"8 Simple Rules For Dating My Teenage Daughter":

"8 Simple Rules for Marrying My Daughter: And Other Reasonable Advice from the Father of the Bride (Not that Anyone is Paying Attention)":

"How to Remodel a Man: Tips and Techniques on Accomplishing Something You Know Is Impossible but Want to Try Anyway":


Life is too serious to be taken seriously.


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