Dr. Andrew Weiner to Cynthia Appleton, March 1998

Maybe I can write you a prescription for beer

Dear Mrs. Appleton,

Thank you for your letter. Let me once again say that I’ve never had a patient so committed to my treatments. However, I think it’s probably not true that taking that cough syrup is giving you foot pain. It is also my opinion that your foot pain is not caused by “foot cancer,” which isn’t even really a thing.

Also, as I said last time we spoke the brown spot on your back was not melanoma. It was chocolate sauce. Your finger wasn’t broken, that’s just how it looks. And there is no need to prescribe you any morphine, no matter how annoying it is to sit next to Cynthia Thomas at Peter’s hockey games.

I do not believe your headaches are indicative of brain cancer. But, if your insurance will cover it, we can just give you an MRI for the heck of it. Come in next Tuesday and we’ll discuss it.

Yours,

Dr. Weiner

Analysis:

Hypochondria comes from the Greek “hypo-“, meaning “extreme,” and “chondros,” meaning “crazy person.” Today, more Americans are self-diagnosed with any number of unlikely diseases thanks to WebMD or “one friend I had who’s dad had it one time and the symptoms are pretty similar, except for the bleeding sores and the vomiting.”

Since most of us in the western world no longer have any really romantic diseases to die of, like consumption or dysentery, we have to resort to pretending we have better diseases than we really do. The record for hypochondria, as measured in doctor guffaws, is currently held by Mark Begley, a construction worker from Queens, New York. In 1992, Mark sneezed twice in succession and immediately diagnosed himself with sinus cancer. When a doctor told him he wasn’t even sick, Mark bravely rediagnosed himself with sinus AIDS, a fake disease he made up. He has since then started a charity for people living with sinus AIDS and has drawn worker’s comp for 20 straight years.

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