Why Kylie Is Risking Her Health for Her One True Love - Her Career; AS SHE FALLS ILL MONTHS AFTER FIGHTING BREAST CANCER

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AS SHE lay tucked up in bed at her Chelsea home yesterday, slowly recuperating from yet another health scare, Kylie Minogue's thoughts may have drifted to an old metaphor she was once fond of trotting out.

Back when she first hit the big time, with her music topping the charts worldwide and an image of her pert backside on every teenage boy's wall, it seemed appropriate.

'I'm a show pony,' she trilled to all and sundry. 'Even when I'm a grandmother, I'll still be dressed up in tassels and sequins, jumping around on stage. I'm going to keep doing it until I drop.' Delivered with her trademark toothy smile, it was a disarmingly positive message.

Time, however, lends a different, altogether darker context to her words.

Since last weekend, she has been holed up in her flat, pole-axed by illness and fretting about how soon she will be able to work.

Indeed, on Saturday night the chirpy singer nearly fulfilled her own prophecy - cutting short a performance in Manchester because she was on the verge of collapsing in front of 20,000 horrified fans.

Officially, she is suffering from a severe respiratory tract infection.

Informally, representatives insist she has nothing worse than a bout of flu.

Yet given her recent battle with breast cancer, it is hardly surprising that many of those closest to Kylie are worried it may be a harbinger of something far more severe.

The Mail understands that friends and family are becoming desperately worried about the singer's health.

'The fact is that she is only in remission from the cancer - contrary to the positive spin that's been put on her recovery, she absolutely has not been given the all clear - and pushing herself to the limit is just silly,' says a source close to the star.

'But at the moment, getting Kylie to slow down is like trying to stop a freight train. All the time she was ill she was dreaming of being back on stage and now it seems nothby ing is going to stop her.' Her schedule, punctuated by energysapping 24-hour flights, is hugely punishing. As well as her 33-date world tour, the singer has just released a new album, written a book and launched a fragrance.

Even in the week of her collapse, she spent the time between shows laying a foundation stone with her handprints at Wembley and unveiling a new waxwork.

So why, after 18 months of operations, chemotherapy and obsessively healthy living, put her delicate recovery at risk?

THE answer, friends say, lies in her troubled personal life.

Her three-year relationship with Olivier Martinez has been rocked by rumours that he is having an affair with a stunning model 14 years her junior.

And when she issued an ultimatum to Olivier, summoning him to spend Christmas in Australia where she was in the midst of her Showgirl tour, he refused.

Instead, Kylie abandoned a planned family Christmas in Melbourne to fly back to Paris to see him.

Sources close to Olivier in France maintain he was not unfaithful (despite spending three days escorting the woman in question - Israeli beauty Sarai Givati - around the city), yet they admit Kylie was shocked by his defiant refusal even to discuss the allegations with her.

Now friends say the couple's relationship is 'very rocky' and facing a bigger challenge as work commitments keep them apart.

'Kylie admitted recently that she does push herself too hard, but she says hard work is the only thing she knows,' says a source.

'When she's being honest, Kylie admits that she defines herself by her career.

'She's had a string of long-term relationships with men, but all of them have gone wrong in the end.

Her relationships with Michael Hutchence and the model James Gooding ended in tears, and even the situation with Ollie doesn't look too healthy.

'Most of her family are back in Australia, so she hardly sees them. …