Tuesday, June 30, 2009


My name is Jeremy Helligar, and I'm a hypochondriac. This particular psychological malady has afflicted me for as long as I can remember, but it wasn't always such a powerful force. Since I was around 8 years old, my frequent headaches had me predicting my own impending doom, death by a brain tumor that was sitting idle in my noggin just waiting to invade my entire body, or worse, a deadly aneurysm preparing to strike and knock me dead. Instantly. But back then, my gloomy doomy health outlook seemed almost as ridiculous to me as it did to everyone around me. Every time I had a little pain in my head, I became a royal pain in the neck.

Now that I'm 40, the reality of death by tumor, aneurysm or any of a host of destructive maladies seems all too possible. Especially with celebrities, like Michael Jackson, dying young. And in this golden age of the internet, all the tools for self-diagnosis (and prognosis) are just a mouse click away. Got a little scratch in my throat? I do a Google search or log on to Wikipedia to find out what deadly form of cancer is about to do me in.

I know it sounds silly, but I also know that there are millions of people out there who are just like me. I can't speak for them, but for me, it's not so much a fear of death that has me living with black clouds moving in and out of the space over my head like a temperamental weather front. It's a fear of a slow, painful death, or dying alone in my apartment, where my body will be discovered days later, decomposing and smelling up the entire floor of my building. Come on, you single folks who live alone: The thought has crossed your mind too.

Today I went to my doctor with the results of a battery of tests I'd had done about a week and a half ago -- blood work, an EKG, an X-ray of my thorax. (I still haven't figured out the point of the latter, but here in Buenos Aires, doctors order X-rays, like U.S. docs prescribe antibiotics.) Dr. Kaip's verdict: My health is impeccable. I left his office psyched and ready to swim the Rio de la Plata. Unfortunately, it's winter in BA, and I don't know how to swim. Still, I walked home feeling relieved and invincible.

But I knew it wouldn't last long.... Oh!... What's that?... What's that little twitchy feeling I just had in my temple? Oh, no! Here comes that sinking feeling again.
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