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Christopher Hitchens on the Topic of Cancer (vanityfair.com)
105 points by petercooper on Aug 4, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 16 comments


The notorious stage theory of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, whereby one progresses from denial to rage through bargaining to depression and the eventual bliss of “acceptance,” hasn’t so far had much application in my case. In one way, I suppose, I have been “in denial” for some time, knowingly burning the candle at both ends and finding that it often gives a lovely light. But for precisely that reason, I can’t see myself smiting my brow with shock or hear myself whining about how it’s all so unfair: I have been taunting the Reaper into taking a free scythe in my direction and have now succumbed to something so predictable and banal that it bores even me. Rage would be beside the point for the same reason.

To me, this is the best bit from the article. Having gone so far down the road back to health when all the world tried to tell me it could not be done, it is very clear to me that one's thinking, and the actions that grow out of that, is critical to the ability to resolve the problem. I wish him well and I hope the above bodes well for his ability to think clearly and therefore see clearly whatever the necessary steps are for him to make the journey back to the land of the living.

Important moral of story:

If you notice progressive changes in your body that last more than a week or two, don't ignore them. This goes double if you're over 40 and triple if you're over 60.

(My dad, who is in his eighties, was diagnosed with colon cancer three weeks ago. What's really annoying is that it turned out afterwards that the troublesome symptoms -- altered bowel habits -- had been troubling him for 3-6 months before he mentioned them to anyone. Remember: the later it's caught, the harder it is to do anything about it!)

Totally agree. I worked with a great guy called Steve Holtzman (http://www.interesting-people.org/archives/interesting-peopl...) who had been having bowel trouble for a while (and some weight loss) without dealing with it. When he did it was too late. He had stage IV colon cancer and was dead in under a year. It was utterly tragic to see.

So true... my dad had some stomach pain years back and went into surgery and during surgery they realized he had a cancerous growth. He went through chemo and got through it after 6 months and managed to fully recover. We thought we were through hell but last year, he had some pains in his shoulder and always felt like there was gas in his stomach.

We didn't think the cancer would return since he had already suffered a lifetime's worth. But sadly enough, it was a relapse of the cancer in a different area and since it was his second time they recommended a stem cell transplant. This time he took a trip to hell and back and he is recovered for now and I hope he manages to live peacefully. But once you go through something like this, even a small symptom can really scare you.

This is a brutally honest narrative of being a cancer victim. (I choose not to say 'battling cancer' due to the article's content.) Anyone who has encountered this disease, en route to their own oblivion, will recognise its ferocious impact. I commend this article, whatever you think of Christopher and his views; I commend his naked honesty.

The only thing that bothered me was the metaphor of the cancer being alien. It's not, which is worse: it's you. The cancer cells are your cells. Perhaps a better metaphor is that of a traitor.

Yeah, that bothered me too, but I suppose it does feel very alien to have something so very abnormal growing from within.

I don't think people realize that cancer is just a very slightly modified you. Hitch factually knows this, I'm sure, but it's a damn hard thing to conceptualize.

I heard someone on reddit the other day say that at conception, you've selected yourself to exist, which I thought was equally as mind bending :P

Yeah, I tend to think of them as rogue cells.

I found this remarkably encouraging as I've been trying to deal with some "difficult" personal decisions lately. This brings me to a place where I can see how little some things matter, how much more some others do matter, and finally that life should be lived NOW. Many thanks to the author for writing it.

It is clear that Hitchens is facing grim odds. His is a voice that I'd hate to see silenced, but judging by this article, we could see some of his best work in his remaining days (however long they may be).

Yes, judging from this and also a recent interview, he still has a very active mind.


> a voice that I'd hate to see silenced

He's an imperialist war monger. I'll shed no tears. He's certainly expressed no remorse for the tens of thousands dead in the wars he cheerlead.

And yet, still, we lose our humanity when we sink to his level. Besides I think the jury is out: on the plus side he wrote a beautiful damning book[1] of Kissinger who is by far one of the worst people to have escaped unscathed from their own wrong-doing and is the man I would dearly love to see locked away for the rest of his natural days - on the minus side he bought into the "they'll greet us as liberators" lark and would not back down in the face of growing evidence to the contrary, view i might add Hitchens shares with millions upon millions of people from the US.

Everybody is a complex mix of good and bad intentions. I thank the stars that you're not the final arbiter.

[1] http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Kissinger/CaseAgainst1_Hit...

I know it's probably not nerd-ok but I read the article hoping it would be his take on the Henry Miller book. Of course, I was sorely disappointed. Then I re-read the title.

I admire Hitchens. His "Letters to a Young Contrarian" gave me no small measure of actualization. I hope he survives this so he can continue writing and getting everybody's backs up.

this is terrible news. we really can't afford to lose such a passionate advocate for reason. hopefully he can be saved

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