Topic of Cancer

August 4, 2010

"In whatever kind of 'race' life may be, I have very abruptly become a finalist".

Christopher speaks out on his cancer in Vanity Fair.

Read his article here.


Tyler said...

Brilliant. And downright admirable that Hitchens still chooses to write while undergoing chemotherapy.

Tom said...

He hasn't lost his humor under these horrific circumstances. Not much info on what his chances are. Too early to tell I suppose.

Kirk said...

I down-to-earth article, yet moving as well.

HJ said...

Wow! Seriously sad days!


HJ said...

Not much info on what his chances are. Too early to tell I suppose.

Not really. It's much worse than I thought if it had such terrible symptoms as having to call the ambulance and vomiting everywehre and being able to feel the cancer by his collarbone. Some people discover this kind of cancer in checkups and even then it is advanced, but this one really must be far along.


Tom said...

Not much info on what his chances are. Too early to tell

I meant there's no 12 months to live or anything like that. It sure sounds bad.

HJ said...

And it has gone to his lung as well. This is stage IV cancer.

Working back from the cancer-ridden squamous cells that these first results disclosed, it took rather longer than that to discover the disagreeable truth. The word “metastasized” was the one in the report that first caught my eye, and ear. The alien had colonized a bit of my lung as well as quite a bit of my lymph node. And its original base of operations was located—had been located for quite some time—in my esophagus.

Stage IV. In stage IV, the cancer has metastasized, or spread, to other parts of the body. The five-year rate of survival for esophageal cancer patients diagnosed during stage IV drops to 2.8 percent.


Steve H said...

Brilliant writing. Doesn't sound hopeful.

Jonah said...

What amazing writing. How much better is this than the vapid and sanctimonious idea of the 5 Stages of Dying? If I ever get cancer, I hope I'm strong enough to face it exactly like this.

There's something that gives me hope. Hitch says he has a really strong constitution that has allowed him to smoke and drink so much. He also says that his blood pressure and other indicators look good again. I'm hoping this means he can survive more chemo and radiation than most, and so has a better chance.

One thing is for sure: Christopher Hitchens' literary work has definitely not yet been completed.

Anonymous said...

I would advise those who say "but hitch is strong" to not be so hopefull. I want nothing more than for the great man to survive this, it means so much to me, but unfortunately, and we atheists understand this better than anyone - life is cruel. Very cruel. death does not discriminate. The chances of Hitchens surviving are low.

Expect the worst, especially when the worst is the most likely, then you wont face as crushing a disapointment.
Hey maybe hitch is one of the 2.8% who survive 5 years, or one of the 0.0??? ? who survive 10 years and if that happense we will all be overjohyed. But until that happens it might be better to be realistic.

Just my advice, you dont need to take it, each his own.


Adam Grace said...

So, SO beautifully written.

Mark G said...

I saw him outside the 92nd St. Y just before he went onstage through a side entrance, and he did look like he was in pain. At the time, I just thought he was pissed off about something.

Xenophrenia said...


Before I go into my reaction to this article - there were a couple of comments that struck me.

@am (Anonymous posted 8/4 7:50pm)
I just want to say that I hope you don't portray being an atheist as "Expect the worst". Life is cruel? No - life is life, it is we who place our definitions and interpretations on it. You seem to paint life without a 'god' to be bleak and barren. While life sucks sometimes, it does not have a malicious (cruel) motive or intent. It just 'feels' that way.

@Jonah - The five stages of dying are neither vapid nor sanctimonious. To see emotions as a sign of weakness, as you seem to, is unfortunate. These stages are well documented and verifiable. Everyone does them in their own way, but everyone does them (at least as far as they are able). Being stoic and resolute is not synonymous with strength. Courage is not to be without fear but to feel the fear and continue...


Okay *deep breath*

I actually read this article for the first time last night so have had some time to chew on it and roll the words around in my head and my heart to suss out what I think and feel.

My first reaction when I finished this article was my first word here - wow. This is Christopher at his best, writing wise, he is a master with words there is no doubt - but what I felt as the last word went by was an impression of a man who keeps his emotions at arms length. I had the distinct impression that he used his words to dance around them like a fighter, measuring an opponent, only not ready to engage. It’s amazing really, how a carefully crafted sentence can evoke an emotional response without ever really touching the feeling itself. This is in no way criticism - just personal observation.

What else can I say? I wish him and his family all the best - they need it. As I said, life sucks sometimes - sometimes it sucks a lot - right now - it just fucking sucks.

@HJ - I noticed at the end of the article that he hopes to write about the prayer groups that are praying for him - so we may get his take on that situation after all. Just not as directly as you had hoped. ; )

HJ said...

Hi there, Xeno! Y'know I hadn't noticed that last bit right at the end but that is really interesting.

Yeah, I guess he'll tell us about the prayer groups.


Against me is the blind, emotionless alien, cheered on by some who have long wished me ill. But on the side of my continued life is a group of brilliant and selfless physicians plus an astonishing number of prayer groups. On both of these I hope to write next time if—as my father invariably said—I am spared.

By the way, I agree with those who said the writing's great. This is fantastic stuff and great to see Hitchens is not taking the easy course of self-pity or whatever but giving some genuinely poignant words with humor and bravery.

Bravo! This is why we think he's great.

Anonymous said...

"The Genocidal Imagination of Christopher Hitchens"

Anonymous said...

"Christopher Hitchens as Model Apostate"

Anonymous said...

Hitchens Hails "Glorious War"

The recent memorial for long-term New York Review co-editor Barbara Epstein, sadly felled by cancer on June 15, was disfigured by an unseemly outbursts from Christopher Hitchens. There was a list of invitees for the private ceremony and C. Hitchens -- a sometime NYT contributor ­ was not on the list. He implored to be admitted, and some misguidedly decent soul gave him the green light.

Visibly taken with drink, in the estimate of at least one observer, Hitchens showed up and soon made his way to Jean Stein, a close friend of Barbara Epstein, also editor of Grand Street in recent years. Hitchens spared Stein the habitual presentation of his hairy cheek but made a low, facetious bow and offered his hand.

Stein icily declined, saying she had no desire to shake hands with him for many reasons, not least the fact that Hitchens had attacked one of her best friends, Edward Said, while he was on his death bed.

As Hitchens retreated, someone remarked to him, "So your glorious war has turned out to be a total disaster, hasn't it?"

"It is glorious," the sodden scrivener blared, "and it IS my war because it needed Paul Wolfowitz and myself to go and convince the President to go to war."

As mourners digested this megalomanic outburst, Hitchens continued, "And we are going to kill every Al Qaida terrist and Baathist in the country and that's a good thing. They need to be killed and we will kill them."

HJ said...

Urgh! This Anonymous is posting irrlevant articles.

Here's a reply to Norman Finklestine:

Anonymous said...


1) The word is "irrelevant." Buy a dictionary.
2) Why not be honest enough to admit you can't deal with inconvenient facts about your Hero?
3) Here are more facts about the act of aggression your Hero is famous for supporting. Why not ask him about these facts? Or are you afraid?

Xenophrenia said...

Oh look HJ - someone crawled out from under the bridge and is demanding a toll ... whatever shall we do?

Look - it's just some poor troll looking for attention. Don't engage and whatever you do - don't feed it!!! They think they will upset us and make us cry .... they are worth neither the time nor the effort of engagement. If they don't want to take up the argument in a proper way the argument isn't worth having. If they can't show respect - they shouldn't get any - in fact they shouldn't get any attention at all.

Maybe if they get annoying enough Tom can step in and do something. I know it is really tempting to jump when they taunt but I have a suggestion. When you feel your blood pressure rising as you read their messages picture an old unshaven toothless old man sitting in front of a tar stained computer screen in his underwear in his parents basement. Miserable and hating life - he seeks to brighten his day by spreading his misery to others by pushing their buttons ... suddenly they are laughable and pathetic instead of inducing the rage they are seeking.

If this individual actually wanted to discuss these issues - they'd bring them up in a reasonable and adult manner - not storm in like a sugar-mad 2 year-old. All they want is cause a scene, which means they are not worth the time or energy.

So - have you watched the Anderson Cooper video yet HJ? ; )

Xenophrenia said...

Hmmm - looks like I needed to proofread that last one a bit ... next time ; )

HJ said...

Hi Xeno!

Yeah, your right about the trolls. They are coming to gloat because they want to spread there misery.

Yeah, I watched the Anderson Cooper. I'll put my mesage up there!


BTW Anonymouos troll; here's Hitchens repsonse to Alex Cockburn:


Anonymous Troll 0-1 HJ


Anonymous said...

Is this a discussion group or a religious cult? You can't read factual articles about questions - like U.S. aggression in Iraq - CH has put at the center of his life?

Xenophrenia said...

Just a quick response Mr. Troll - Maybe in a post that has video of him discussing the subject. This is a post regarding his experience with cancer. If you want to discuss this stuff - there are far more appropriate places to do so and far more appropriate approaches as well.

Anonymous said...


Why are you so sanctimonious about a passionate advocate of mass murder and torture such as Christopher Hitchens?
When will he apologize to the people of Iraq?


Christopher reads from Hitch-22: A Memoir