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Christopher Hitchens Diagnosed with Cancer, Cancels Book Tour

5 years ago
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Author and journalist Christopher Hitchens said Wednesday that he is undergoing chemotherapy for cancer of the esophagus and has canceled the remainder of his tour in support of his new memoir, Hitch-22. Hitchens broke the news in a brief statement on the website of Vanity Fair, where he is a columnist.

"I have been advised by my physician that I must undergo a course of chemotherapy on my esophagus," Hitchens wrote. "This advice seems persuasive to me. I regret having had to cancel so many engagements at such short notice."

Esophageal cancer is often caused by alcohol and tobacco consumption. A 2003 article in the New England Journal of Medicine called it "one of the least studied and deadliest cancers worldwide."

Hitchens, 61, is famous for his heavy smoking and drinking, though he gave up cigarettes in 2008. In 2003, Hitchens wrote in Vanity Fair that his daily alcohol intake was enough "to kill or stun the average mule." In Hitch-22, published in June 2010, he wrote that he had moderated his alcohol consumption significantly. "There was a time when I could reckon to outperform all but the most hardened imbibers, but I now drink relatively carefully," he wrote. On C-SPAN earlier this year, he said he finds alcohol "a better servant than a master."

Hitchens immigrated to the United States from the U.K. in 1981, and has since become a familiar character in the Washington social scene. He became an American citizen in 2007, saying that after 9/11 he began to feel he was "cheating on his dues" by living in the United States without becoming a citizen. "At that point, the U.S. began to be subject to a fantastic campaign of slander and defamation, and I began to feel really protective. This is my country you're talking about."

The news of Hitchens' cancer elicited a sympathetic response from some Christians, with whom he has had an antagonistic relationship since the publication of his 2007 polemic, God is Not Great, which attacked the world's major religions and advocated atheism. "I know he doesn't want me to, and I know he thinks it is useless but, Christopher Hitchens, I am praying for you," Pat Archibald wrote on the website of the National Catholic Register.

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Did I or did I not say it? I saw Hitch in Chicago in June. His admirers, of which I am one, were fawning all over him, all the while oblivious to his, what to me was obvious, illness. Even more cruel is that it is a cancer that can affect his voice. Hitchens does not approve of people being his "fans" and encourages others to think for themselves, probably so he can have an endless supply of people with whom to argue. Hitch, I told you that I hoped to see you again in Chicago soon, and you reciprocated the sentiment. I am impressed, but not surprised, by the outpouring of support from Christians who, while retaining their beliefs, admire Hitch's mind, honesty and integrity. I join them and nonbelievers in wishing him a full recovery. We lost Carl Sagan too soon. It is way too soon for us to lose Hitch.

July 17 2010 at 9:05 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

It is always fascinating to read posts made by theists. Some have been in good taste with the best of intentions that would make Jesus proud but most of the comments show a clear misunderstanding of reality. Here is a Reader's Digest version of why I find appeals to a supernatural authority to be more than useless.

#1: If "God" is all-powerful, all-knowing, transcends the space-time continuum and is the creative force of our universe then every event is simply a part of God's plan and it is the height of hubris for mere mortal temporal beings to question the master plan of the almighty. Humans simply are pawns of this God and they only have the illusion of free-will since the Creator already knows every person's past, present & future as God transcends human time & space. Any prayers made are useless as God has a plan and the petitioning by the faithful doesn't impact God's plan as he already knew the damage, pain and suffering that would be caused by pesky things like cancer or a Gulf oil spill. The faithful should accept God's plan and get on with life as best they can and stop complaining.

#2 The historical evidence clearly shows the rational being that there is no such being as "God" & negative events like cancer or Gulf oil spills occur because of abnormal cellular reproduction caused by an event (smoking, radiation, genetics) or that BP cut corners with safety to save money & they pushed too hard to get the Deepwater Horizon well up and running ignoring the workers' warnings as they didn't want to pay for the days required to do it right & when things went wrong all of their reckless disregard for safety came back to haunt them and 11 employees died and now we have millions of barrels of crude oil in our Gulf which has destroyed the ecosystem, the wetlands, the marshes, closed fishing grounds while putting a lot of families out of a livelihood from which they probably will never recover. So human greed, avarice and hubris led to this massive BP Oil Spill and it has nothing to do with the supernatural. So all the prayers in the world make not one bit of difference as we have seen as the well still spews forth unabated just as praying for a mythical deity to cure one's cancer is simply an exercise in talking to one's self.

Religious belief is irrational and is faith-based rather than evidence-based no matter how much you want to believe whatever myth you follow is true. Hitchens' cancer will either respond well to the chemo or it will progress and end his life. It all comes down to biology & chemistry on how this fight with cancer will end. Petitions to imaginary beings won't change the reality of his or anyone's situation.

July 07 2010 at 10:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

si quis primo periuria celat
sera tamen tacitis poena venit pedibus-propertius
if one utters a false statement,
on quiet feet comes his punishment and
from an unexpected direction

July 07 2010 at 10:48 AM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply

I'm so sorry to hear this about Christopher Hitchens. He is a smart man with complicated views but more honest than many. Hopefully he will survive and thrive. Best wishes for good health for Christopher.

July 03 2010 at 1:38 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply

lopezofthree took the words right out of my mouth. It is true that only God truly understands Mr. Hitchens and his reasons for maintaining his vices and falling away from belief in him (he was baptized in the Anglican rite as a child). I remember once reading about an interview that he was conducting and when speaking about his mother, who committed suicide, he choked and teared up. Could this perhaps be one of the reasons for his falling into abusing alcohol.....we may never know, but as believers would say, truly, God DOES does know. Only He knows his heart and we can never Judge, his actions yes, but never his motives. One thing I can guarantee is this: There is no doubt in my mind that Servant of God Mother Teresa is praying for his healing, particularly of the spiritual type, and if, through her intercession, he is healed miraculously, because that is what it would be, miraculous, and converts as a consequence of it, Praise be to Jesus, and thus her cause for beatification would open the door to canonization after that.

July 03 2010 at 12:48 PM Report abuse -5 rate up rate down Reply
Jerry and Molly

We are praying for Christopher Hitchens and we encourage all Christians everywhere to do the same.

July 03 2010 at 12:15 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Shawn or Renee

Although I have sympathy for anyone who is dealing with cancer, this is the same guy I heard on Anderson Cooper 360 that expressed (what I would call) restrained elation at the death of Jerry Falwell. He even went so far to call him a "toad," and wished there "was a hell so Falwell could go to it." Now, I didn't agree with every Falwell did (especially politically), but there's just some things you don't say after someone has died. If you don't have something nice to say, don't say it at all. Keeping that philosophy in mind, I will control my comments about Mr. Hitchens and say that I hope he recovers.

July 03 2010 at 10:56 AM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply

I'm a Christian but I still always enjoyed Hitchens' humor and approach to issues. And much of what he wrote in his Mother Teresa book is undeniable. I hope he recovers.

July 03 2010 at 5:38 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

Christopher, I pray that the Lord Jesus the Christ reveal Himself to you so that you will not perish but have eternal life in Him. As John 3:17 says "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." 2 Peter 3:9 "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." God's love is amazing. Seek Him while you still have breath. The Apostle Paul didn't believe either until Jesus revealed Himself to him...I hope and pray that for you. With love in Christ Jesus I send this to you.

July 03 2010 at 1:38 AM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply

Having had my mother taken very recently and even more suddenly by cancer, I hope for you the best. Your words and those of Mr. Harris have given me more to think about as I too am an atheist. I hope fully that your outcome is highly favorable.

July 02 2010 at 11:37 PM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply

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