I got a cough at the tail end of spring that was vicious enough to hurt and left me gasping for breath. After suffering for a month, I went to the doctor and was told it was a viral infection. It would clear up on its own.
It eased sufficiently that I no longer turned purple and scared onlookers but it didn't go away. There were times when I would go a couple of hours without the urge and I thought I had beaten it only for it to sneak back and leave me hacking once again.
The tickle at the back of the throat was annoying. An unwelcome lodger whose presence became so familiar, I forgot it was there until, across the bar one evening, Tim said: "You've still got the cough, then."
It was a shock to realise that I had and I could see problems ahead. I'm on the waiting list for a catarct operation. The last thing you want is to cough unexpectedly when a surgeon is at work on your eye.
My wife phoned to make another appointment with a doctor. I was in no rush; I'd had it months already, but I was summoned to the surgery that very morning. I was given a thorough inspection and interrogation about my well-being. I said I had been prompted to make another appointment because of the impending operation and also because of the health campaign that suggested you should see your doctor if you had a persistent cough.
The possibilities hadn't really sunk in until that moment. I needed to go to Huddersfield Royal Infirmary for a chest X-ray. The cough probably was the result of a viral infection but an X-ray was important to rule out any possibility of cancer or any other complication.
An old friend had died of cancer last Christmas. Only the week before, I received a call from my oldest surviving friend, who told me he had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer. He was surprisingly cheerful and philosophical.
Would I be so philosophical if my X-ray proved terminal?
The X-ray was duly carried out the same day and I told myself there was nothing to be worried about. I walked every day, I had never been a smoker, I ate a healthy diet, I felt as fit as a fiddle. Although I've never really understood how you tell the difference between a fit fiddle and one of unhealthy disposition.
I was philosophical and comforted myself with the balm that the cough really was the tail end of a virus. It actually seemed to be getting better, possibly because I was now so aware of it. I coughed less frequently because I consciously salivated to pacify the tickle at the back of my throat.
But at night, in those long silent hours, the nag of worry returned to fire imagination and worst case scenarios. There were parts of my life I needed to sort out. Safeguards to put in place. During the days, existence took on a sharper focus. The possibility concentrated my thoughts.
Finally, I telephoned the surgery for the results of the X-ray. A hint of bated breath. "You're normal, Mr Kilcommons," was the verdict.
It's a long time since I've been called normal but I didn't take offence. The result was the one I had expected. There had been nothing to worry about. Except that I had, quietly, in the recesses of my mind. Cancer is a word that has that effect.
And I wonder just how philosophical I would have been if the result had been different.