Hitchens: I have esophageal cancer

posted at 6:26 pm on June 30, 2010 by Allahpundit

He’s been canceling book-tour events for unknown reasons, but rumors were swirling that he’d recently been taken off a flight on a stretcher.

Mystery solved.

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

That’s all he says. He’d supposedly given up tobacco two years ago but was sneaking smokes as recently as last month. The two leading risk factors for esophageal cancer: Cigarettes and alcohol.

His prognosis, not in only terms of survival but in carrying on with speech and debate, is unknown thus far. But here’s a passage from the Merck handbook linked above:

Because esophageal cancer usually is not diagnosed until the disease has spread, the death rate is high. Fewer than 5% of people survive more than 5 years. Many die within a year of noticing the first symptoms. Because nearly all cases of esophageal cancer are fatal, the doctor’s main objective is to control symptoms, especially pain and the inability to swallow, which can be very frightening to the person and loved ones (see Death and Dying: Difficulty Swallowing).

I’ve never met him — this is as close as I’ve come — but between enjoying his work, supporting many of his positions (on foreign policy, at least), and of course feeling a little atheist kinship, it’s like I’ve known him for years. This is hard news to take.

Update (Ed): Obviously, I don’t have an atheist kinship with Hitchens, but I’ve long been an admirer of his fearless defense of Western civilization, his caustic and brilliant wit, and his immense talent as a writer — even when he writes something with which I disagree.  I hope he doesn’t mind that I will pray for his health, and strength for him and those who care about him.

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First his nemesis Conrad Black is released from jail, his conviction overturned, and now this? Not a good week for Christopher Hitchens. I hope and pray he is one of the 5% who beats this thing.

BrideOfRove on July 1, 2010 at 8:25 AM

Then again, his handwriting isn’t that clear, so maybe he wrote “heap the faith?”

BrunoMitchell on July 1, 2010 at 8:25 AM

blatantblue on June 30, 2010 at 6:45 PM

I am sorry to hear about your dad and friends, blue. I will keep them in my thoughts and prayers.

bitsy on July 1, 2010 at 8:29 AM

Y-not on July 1, 2010 at 3:57 AM

Are you readying this thread? I guess it’s true that people see what they want to see.

Cindy Munford on July 1, 2010 at 8:32 AM

The two leading risk factors for esophageal cancer: Cigarettes and alcohol.

Good thing I don’t smoke. I’m not a praying guy, but I’ll keep Chris in my thoughts. Unlike most Europeans these days, he at least does believe in Western Civilization.

rbj on July 1, 2010 at 8:36 AM

Are you readying this thread? I guess it’s true that people see what they want to see.

Cindy Munford on July 1, 2010 at 8:32 AM

I see it too. There’s some smarmy, condescending comments about him now “finding God” on his deathbed, some last I- told-you-so’s from true believers. Most posts are gracious, but a few are pretty ugly, even if subtly. I especially enjoyed the one where Mother Theresa kicks him in the balls.

These same types of things turned me away from faith several years ago.

But, that said, I really don’t want to get into a theological argument here, which is why I hadn’t mentioned it until someone who agreed with me was basically called delusional.

Heralder on July 1, 2010 at 8:50 AM

I hope he beats it. Good luck, Mr. Hitchens, and I pray that God grants you a miracle.

Dork B. on July 1, 2010 at 8:51 AM

Very sad. George Harrison died of esophageal cancer that later went to his brain.

Hilts on July 1, 2010 at 8:53 AM

Like many others have said, Christopher Hitchens is a marvelous writer. Whether I agree or disagree with his positions, he is always an interesting, provocative read.

Hoping for the best, Mr. Hitchens.

Fallon on July 1, 2010 at 9:10 AM

Will pray for Hitch.

Akzed on July 1, 2010 at 9:27 AM

Even though he is an atheist and would probably scoff at my prayers for him, I am praying for his recovery. Anyone that is that much of a gadfly has to be saved.

Kuffar on July 1, 2010 at 9:32 AM

I know Mr. Hitchens has said he does not believe in God but that does not matter because God believes in him.I will pray for him and his family wish them peace.

thmcbb on July 1, 2010 at 9:54 AM

Very sad. George Harrison died of esophageal cancer that later went to his brain.

Hilts on July 1, 2010 at 8:53 AM

I know someone with cancer in the brain who has been hanging in there for years. The will to live can be fierce. As Dylan Thomas wrote, “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Disturb the Universe on July 1, 2010 at 10:07 AM

Damn.

You said it.

Count to 10 on July 1, 2010 at 10:09 AM

Hope still exists. Hitchens may find it.

Esthier on July 1, 2010 at 10:23 AM

I think Narutobaby is upset because us “bible thumpers” have not jumped on the bandwagon, automatically damning Mr. Hitchens’ soul to hell. It’s upsetting his whole world.

Mr. Hitchens – God’s blessings to you. All of them. I wish you well, in the literal and figurative sense.

Mommynator on July 1, 2010 at 10:25 AM

Who will set a guard over my mouth, and upon my lips an effective seal, That I may not fail through them, that my tongue may not destroy me?

[Sir,22:27], NAB

atemely on July 1, 2010 at 10:26 AM

Best wishes for him and his family. I hope he can beat it.

DrAllecon on July 1, 2010 at 10:53 AM

Heralder on July 1, 2010 at 8:50 AM

Anytime you look to be offended, you are guaranteed success. I am sorry that the words of the few outweigh the goodwill expressed for Mr. Hitchens by the majority. And even sorrier that it would keep you away.

Cindy Munford on July 1, 2010 at 11:11 AM

I will pray for him and his family.

ihasurnominashun on July 1, 2010 at 11:21 AM

I pray that Hitch finally turn his life over to Jesus.

44Magnum on July 1, 2010 at 11:27 AM

I never saw eye to eye with Mr. Hitchens on religion. But on most other matters he is a fellow soldier.

Hopes for a full recovery his way.

conservnut on July 1, 2010 at 11:29 AM

Praying for him and his family.

badtemper on July 1, 2010 at 11:53 AM

Cindy Munford on July 1, 2010 at 11:11 AM

I didn’t say the words of a few outweighed those of the majority. I specifically stated most of the comments have been gracious. Nothing here has offended me, because this thread isn’t about me or my beliefs. That doesn’t mean I become unable to spot boorish or otherwise unkind behavior, though.

The only reason I posted what I posted (which I also explained in that thread) is you seemed to think Y-not was delusional for finding some not-so-nice comments. He’s not. That was my point, and there’s no denying it if you just read the comments. There’s no argument.

I don’t mean any of that to be confrontational, I’m just responding. :)

Heralder on July 1, 2010 at 11:54 AM

I have a hard time feeling any sympathy for him. It’s one thing to disagree with someone, but his attacks on persons of faith have been consistently beyond the pale of civil discourse. I’ll pray for him, nevertheless.

Looks like he’ll soon find out whether he’s right.

skydaddy on July 1, 2010 at 12:54 PM

I’m waiting for some Cindy Sheehan-type to proclaim that esophageal cancer is caused by water-boarding.

I’ve been vaguely aware of Mr.Hitchins’ writing for several years now, but just lately started paying more focused attention to him. His tale of having a cosmetic make-over was endearing, in particular. He strikes me as being an OK writer, with his success more dependent upon what he chooses to write about. The experiences he puts himself in that then enables him to spin a good yarn. If someone like Mr. Hitchins says that water-boarding is a bad thing because he’s been there / done that, then I tend to start believing it and to put the practice into the “torture” side of the column.

In any case, I had already decided to read more of his stuff, and I do wish him the best. I hate reading about cancer diagnoses any more, being more and more convinced that the torture the medical profession puts cancer patients through is not worth the prolonged agony of final months being spent throwing up, having explosive diarrhea, and becoming bald (not to mention having large chunks of one surgically removed a la Roger Ebert). Ten percnt recovery rate doesn’t sound promising, and makes me sigh.

Good luck, Christopher.

NahnCee on July 1, 2010 at 1:15 PM

There’s some smarmy, condescending comments about him now “finding God” on his deathbed

Heralder on July 1, 2010 at 8:50 AM

Penn, an atheist of the Penn and Teller duo, tells this story in an interview. On a flight he sat next to a devout Christian. They struck up a conversation. The Christian was polite, but vocal in sharing the Gospel.

Penn was asked whether this bothered him. He said not at all–that he would expect folks who think he’s headed to hell to offer an alternative. Not to do so, he said, would be cruel and hateful.

I respectfully ask you to see the heart behind our words, even if you reject the message. Many of us respect and care about Mr. Hitchens. Our hope for a “deathbed conversion” is not so we can carry it like a banner of victory. It’s out of genuine compassion and concern.

Grace_is_sufficient on July 1, 2010 at 1:20 PM

Heralder on July 1, 2010 at 11:54 AM

There are always the few and I will agree that there can be remarks made that make it hard to to accept the association of like minded people.

Cindy Munford on July 1, 2010 at 1:23 PM

Grace_is_sufficient on July 1, 2010 at 1:20 PM

There is (or was) a video of Penn telling about a fan who gave him a Bible. He likened the continual evangelism as warning to someone that they were going to be hit by a bus. As outspoken as he is about his atheism, he seems to recognize that he might be wrong. At least occasionally.

Cindy Munford on July 1, 2010 at 1:29 PM

I haven’t always agreed with him (more often not) but even if his voice is muted for a brief period while he fights this thing, I will miss him.

georgeofthedesert on July 1, 2010 at 1:57 PM

Heralder on July 1, 2010 at 11:54 AM

Hey, thanks for that. I really appreciate the gesture.

As someone said, we see what we want to see.

It seems to me that when someone is faced with a major life crisis, whether it be the loss of a job or a life-threatening illness, that’s the time to express support or say nothing. It’s not the time to point to them their flaws that got them there or teach them a life lesson, no matter how sincerely you believe there’s a lesson to be learned.

When my mom had lung cancer (which eventually killed her), I was amazed (dismayed) at the number of people whose first reaction was to ask if she smoked rather than to express their concern or sympathy.

BTW, I’m Roman Catholic. The insensitivity of some people doesn’t shake my faith. Just sayin’.

Y-not on July 1, 2010 at 2:00 PM

Grace_is_sufficient on July 1, 2010 at 1:20 PM

I think I’m doing poorly in explaining. I wasn’t referring to people hoping he finds God, (in fact I very much liked your posts, for example) I was referring to those that think he will out of last minute fear and are saying so in a preening, smug fashion.

I, I wonder if he’ll find…….(wait for it)……G-O-D?

Deathbed recant in 3…2…1…

I only called it out at all because the person who mentioned them being smug was told they were imagining it. I don’t want to make this thread about that though and I didn’t want to offend any well-wishers, religious or not, either.

So I’ll conclude in repeating that I wish Christopher the best and hope that he recovers.

Heralder on July 1, 2010 at 2:01 PM

Y-not on July 1, 2010 at 2:00 PM

Agreed. :)

Heralder on July 1, 2010 at 2:08 PM

Many of us respect and care about Mr. Hitchens. Our hope for a “deathbed conversion” is not so we can carry it like a banner of victory. It’s out of genuine compassion and concern.

Grace_is_sufficient on July 1, 2010 at 1:20 PM

Well said.

GT on July 1, 2010 at 2:49 PM

some famous Frenchie said on his deathbed, Moliere probably, “I leave the farce to enter the vast perhaps.” Compared to Hitch that’s a strong statement of Faith, possibly Hitch, maybe even perhaps.

JohnBissell on July 1, 2010 at 2:57 PM

I hope he doesn’t mind that I will pray for his health, and strength for him and those who care about him.

Better that he should pray for it. It’s a win-win.

Extrafishy on July 1, 2010 at 2:59 PM

People have been far kinder towards Mr. Hitchens than he was towards Mr. Falwell. I don’t see any problems with the comments.

Rose on July 1, 2010 at 3:35 PM

The ‘bible thumpers’ will just have to get in line behind the nanny staters apparently.

Monica on June 30, 2010 at 7:00 PM

yep.

as for hitch, i hope he pulls out of it. perhaps it is the case that since he uses his voice professionally enough, he was one of those who noticed the symptoms early enough.

i’m not going to obit him yet in any case. all i’ll say is that we come into this universe with one body, and there are many ways to exploit it’s potential. he used his to support a sharp and honest brain, and if cigarettes and whiskey were what he needed to keep that brain moving, then it’s apparent from what he produced with that brain that he put his elbow toward good works.

eh on July 1, 2010 at 3:49 PM

Yikes. Only a couple weeks ago he was on The Daily Show, touring for his autobiography, and made a joke about how it can’t be “too soon” for him to write his autobiography, because he can’t very well wait until it’s too late. Sobering, considering this development.

Mark Jaquith on July 1, 2010 at 4:25 PM

Hopefully, Hithcens will soon turn to the Eternal Hope that awaits when all other hope is lost.

Afterlife becomes far more appealing when the present life runs out. Mr. Hitchens, it’s time to take Pascal’s Wager.

I pray that the Lord will open his mind, before it’s too late.

Steve Z on July 1, 2010 at 5:50 PM

I hope he doesn’t mind that I will pray for his health, and strength for him and those who care about him.

Now I’m really confused. I thought you were an atheist, Allah. Who – or what – do you pray to?

disa on July 1, 2010 at 7:32 PM

Now I’m really confused. I thought you were an atheist, Allah. Who – or what – do you pray to?

disa on July 1, 2010 at 7:32 PM

That wasn’t AP, that was Ed. :-)

Mary in LA on July 1, 2010 at 7:34 PM

Ooops – sorry about that – it was Ed whom I quoted, not Allah (I was thinking “editor”)…

disa on July 1, 2010 at 7:34 PM

Because esophageal cancer usually is not diagnosed until the disease has spread, the death rate is high. Fewer than 5% of people survive more than 5 years.

This is chilling. My husband’s friend was diagnosed a year and a half ago, had surgery twice last spring. I had assumed he was going to be OK.

disa on July 1, 2010 at 7:36 PM

I bet you a dollar that he’ll commit hari kari before he dies of this disease.

Love the guy. He is one of very few people that will call a spade a spade.

TheSitRep on July 1, 2010 at 8:18 PM

God bless you. No, that won’t do.

I’ll keep you in my prayers. Nope.

‘Take care’ will have to do.

marybel on July 1, 2010 at 9:00 PM

Yuri Gregarin, the first Russian cosmonaut, said when he took the first manned flight in space:
“I don’t see God up here”.

Our guest pastor, the BIOLA University president at the time, replied:
“take your helmet off, and you will see Him”.

Hitchens will too, very soon. May God send witnesses to him while he has the chance to accept Christ as Lord and Savior.

dthorny on July 2, 2010 at 2:41 AM

Does this mean he won’t be picking any more fights with Syrian fascists?

Just askin’

HondaV65 on July 2, 2010 at 11:50 AM

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