The Complete Manual of Things That Might Kill You: A Guide to Self-Diagnosis for Hypochondriacs livens up our inevitable march towards death. I love talking about my health almost as much as other people love hearing about it, so those who know me know that in addition to describing my acute lactose intolerance and the chronic back pain I got during a 10-hour drive to Wall Drug a few years ago, I spend my days detailing the litany of maladies and mishaps that could end them. So for me, The Complete Manual of Things That Might Kill You was truly a godsend. Whereas before I thought I only had to worry about heart attacks, shellfish, all the cancers all the people in my family have died from, the bird flu, getting hit by a cyclist in head-to-toe neon spandex, anthrax, a vehicularly-bound Lindsay Lohan, holding my iPhone too close to my head, the mole on my stomach that's kind of shaped like Guam, cat urine, the Mayan apocalypse, the zombie apocalypse, and Dick Cheney needing one of my organs, now I know there are literally hundreds of pages of afflictions and ailments that could be gnawing slowly away from within, or plotting to strike me dead at any moment from without.
The manual opens with a 14-item questionnaire--The Whiteley Index--that establishes the reader's magnitude of hypochondria (score of 8 or more indicates a high probability of a health-anxiety disorder). Once overwhelming fear of death by disease has been verified, page upon page of rare and hard-to-pronounce illnesses, categorized by body part, are open for browsing. Disease listings are easy to navigate, and very convincing. Each includes an overall description, list of specialists to consult, other symptoms, and what to expect by way of progression and treatment. They also rate the disease from 1 to 4, with 1 being the least, and 4 the most, in contagion, pain, and suffering categories. So even if you weren't having vision loss and black nasal discharge before reading about mucormycosis, one perusal of the life-threatening fungal infection, during which common spores found in soil eat away at the blood vessels, bones, and tissues of the face and head, causing Level 4 pain and suffering, and you'll be on the phone with your Otolaryngologist faster than a bee stung stallion bucks its cowboy.
Interesting articles about terrifying worldwide health trends and detailed diagrams of the things that might kill you also make appearances throughout the manual. Some to look forward to include: "Health Makes You Sick"; "The World's Most Expensive Pee"; "Brain Tumor"; and "Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva".