One of the worst things that can happen to a broadcaster is to contract a cold or cough, especially if it lasts for some time. At least on radio, there’s a cough button to press while someone else is talking. You don’t get that luxury on TV.

I’ve always had a bit of a tickly throat. I think it’s the same affliction Iain Duncan Smith suffers from. I don’t get nervous being on the radio or TV but it only seems to happen when I am. Maybe it’s a subconcious thing. However, I’m now suffering from something very different.

Four weeks ago, I started to develop an unusual cough. It wasn’t allied to a cold and there is very little, er, ‘product’ that results from it. If I have a cold, I have a real honking cough, which emantes deep down in my chest and is incredibly loud. This cough isn’t like that at all. And it’s not consistent. It can disappear for several hours and then return with a vengeance. Usually, when I have a coldy cough I cough throughout the night. Not with this one. I have a perfect night’s sleep and when I get up, I can often go for a couple of hours without coughing. And then it’s back with a vengeance.

On TV I try to stifle it, but it’s impossible to get through an episode of CNN Talk without having to cough. I try to hold it in and time it for when a clip is being played. But on a 10 minute appearance on Good Morning Britain it’s impossible. And it’s got to the point where people are noticing…

I’ve had two sets of pills/antibiotics prescribed by my GP but neither have made the slightest difference. Last night on my LBC show, introducing the 8pm hour I couldn’t get through my opening monologue without the cough intervening. And you can’t really press the cough button while you’re the only one talking. In the end I found myself apologising for my cough and saying I’d be the happiest man alive if I could get rid of it. I’m sure my producers will as well, given when I press the cough button they get the full benefit of the sound of me wretching in the gallery! I feel sometimes a bit like Theresa May must have felt during her conference speech last year!

Last Friday I went to see my GP. I’m not a hypochondriac, but having had the cough for three weeks I was starting to become a little bit worried. Combined with losing weight (half a stone in 10 days) and a loss of appetite, I did begin to fear that there might be something more serious at play here. She did a few tests and she confirmed it wasn’t a chest cough and that my lungs were fine. She reckoned it could some gastric reflux issue.

I have always been a bit paranoid about oesophageal cancer. I know too many people (including my mother in law) who have had it and died within weeks. According to Cancer Research UK the common symptoms are…

  • difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
  • persistent indigestion or heartburn
  • weight loss
  • pain in your throat or behind your breastbone
  • a cough that won’t go away

I only have two of those. CRUK say: “There are many other conditions that cause these symptoms. Most of them are much more common than oesophageal cancer.” Phew.

However, my GP did say that in a few cases, reflux can cause the early stages of oesophageal cancer, so she suggested I should have an endoscopy. The very thought of it makes me feel queasy.

That was a week ago, and nothing has improved since then.

It’s getting to the point where if it gets much worse I’m going to have to take myself off the air.

No one likes a presenter coughing into a microphone, do they?

UPDATE 1pm: I’ve got an appointment with a consultant at 2.30pm this afternoon. Slightly nervous.

UPDATE 7.30pm: The consultant reckons it’s one of three things, the most likely being a ‘Hiatus Hernia’. I had never heard of this but the hiatus is an opening in the diaphragm - the muscular wall separating the chest cavity from the abdomen. Normally, the oesophagus (food pipe) goes through the hiatus and attaches to the stomach. In a hiatal hernia (also called hiatus hernia) the stomach bulges up into the chest through that opening. To cut a long story short, I’ve got to have an endoscopy next Friday to see where we go from there. So, another 6 days of coughing at least…