8/4/10

Hitchens's Alien

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

Christopher Hitchens penned the words above in his latest column, published online today, for September's Vanity Fair. The author's esophageal cancer, it seems, was caught too late for comfort in June. Biopsy results have revealed its unsurprising spread:
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. My father had died, and very swiftly, too, of cancer of the esophagus. He was 79. I am 61.
While surviving metastatic cancer of Hitchens's variety is not unheard of, the long-term prognosis is not much better. His affliction will quite likely vanquish him, although he's not given up the fight.

Predictably, the news from last month of his diagnosis has led to a rather inane debate over whether the atheist (and author of the bestselling God Is Not Great) deserves the prayers of the faithful. Hitchens, for the time being, has little to say on the matter:
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.
His column is a wonderfully written piece of self-reflection, a stark reminder of his great talent. It's a must-read.

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