Jeremy Clarkson has revealed that he thought he probably had cancer at the time he hit a Top Gear producer.
In his Sunday Times column, he said the incident came on his “most stressful day… in 27 years at the BBC” – but that other people facing stress “manage to cope better than I did”.
He told the paper he later got the all-clear over a lump on his tongue.
He was dropped from Top Gear in March over what the BBC called an “unprovoked physical attack” on Oisin Tymon.
In his column, Clarkson wrote: “Two days before the ‘fracas’ I’d been told, sternly, by my doctor that a lump on my tongue was probably cancer and that I must get it checked out immediately.
“But I couldn’t do that. We were in the middle of a Top Gear series. And Top Gear always came first.”
The 55-year-old also described his obsession with the Top Gear job, especially after the break-up of his marriage and the death of his mother, and the “enormous” sense of loss he felt after his contract was not renewed.
“It was an all-consuming entity, a many-tentacled global monster that was dysfunctional and awkward and mad but I loved it with a passion. I loved it like my own child,” he wrote.
“I felt sick because after I’d lost my home and my mother, I’d thrown myself even more vigorously into my job and now, idiotically, I’d managed to lose that too.”
He told the newspaper he had initially thought about not doing any more television, but that he was now planning to “pick up the pieces” and do another car show – although he did not know whether he would be working with his former Top Gear co-presenters James May and Richard Hammond.
Clarkson was suspended by the BBC on 10 March, following the altercation with Mr Tymon.
The decision caused an outpouring of support from Top Gear fans, with more than a million people signing an online petition to reinstate him.
The row, which took place in a North Yorkshire hotel, was said to have occurred because no hot food was provided following a day’s filming.
After an internal investigation, the BBC’s director general Tony Hall confirmed Clarkson’s contract would not be renewed.