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Mordecai
06-30-2010, 10:39 PM
Christopher Hitchens has been diagnosed with esophageal cancer.

The Vanity Fair and Slate columnist and author of recent memoir Hitch 22 recently suspended his book tour for what was described as "personal reasons."

Now, he reveals in a statement:


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.

Hitchens, a well-known smoker, attempted in 2008 to quit but reportedly still smokes, according to a recent Washington Post article.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/06/30/christopher-hitchens-canc_n_631429.html

Well that's not good. That kind of cancer has a very poor survival rate:


"In general, the prognosis of esophageal cancer is quite poor, because so many patients present with advanced disease: The overall five-year survival rate (5YSR) is less than 5%. "

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esophageal_cancer

Pete!
06-30-2010, 10:48 PM
Hah. "This advice seems persuasive to me" is almost on a par with Sir Terry describing his Alzheimer's as "an embuggerance".

I've not always agreed with Hitchens, but the world would be a poorer place without his sheer bloody-mindedness and withering scorn. Fingers crossed for the bugger.

Kari
06-30-2010, 11:38 PM
Ugh. That really blows. :( I guess the heavy smoking/drinking took it's toll. He's tenacious though - hopefully he'll pull through.

Churumbela
06-30-2010, 11:44 PM
Alan told me about this earlier. It's such a shame. Drinking and smoking are two of the biggest risk factors for esophageal cancer. It's pretty awful. I hope he does well with treatment and gets a few years more.

Maeby
07-01-2010, 12:22 AM
My grandmother had esophogeal cancer a few years ago. She had chemo, radiation, surgery, the works. Although everything seemed to be going in the right direction, she died within eleven months. I've since heard that most patients don't make it past a year, and not having chemo is worse than having it at all. What a horrible way to die.

Mordecai
07-01-2010, 01:27 AM
He's the only journo whose columns I read religiously. Hard to believe he could be gone in a matter of months.

Nancy
07-01-2010, 01:47 PM
Wow, he has pissed me off a time or two but I always look forward to reading his stuff. What a shame.

Lágnætti
07-01-2010, 07:43 PM
Shit.

Pete!
07-04-2010, 04:30 PM
Oh, apparently God permitted this cancer to give Hitchens the chance to repent.


I suggest that this turn of events shows that God is kind even to those who spend their lives fighting against him. How does that make sense? And how does my suggestion show any compassion?

The short answer is this: if God really wanted to “get” Hitchens, God would just ignore the man, and let him go his blissful way, unchallenged, to a peaceful death. At which point Hitchens would stand, face-to-face and unreconciled, with that very God.

Classy. (http://blog.nj.com/njv_george_berkin/2010/07/god_is_great_to_christopher_hi.html)

Churumbela
07-04-2010, 04:36 PM
Kind? God is kind so he lets people have esophageal cancer? Fucking prick. Clearly Mr. Belkin has never witnessed the "kindness" a person with esophageal cancer faces while going through treatment.

Michael Michael
07-04-2010, 05:26 PM
Ugh, that is like a facebook status witnessed recently. "God: 1, Hitchens: 0." I was like "glorying in another's misfortune, that is just like what Jesus would do!" and also "good Christians never suffer illness or misfortune!"

Argh.

Mordecai
07-04-2010, 06:12 PM
I was a party yesterday where someone described the periodic "esophagus stretching" their father had to go through after he had surgery.

do.not.want.

Churumbela
07-04-2010, 06:17 PM
Yeah, esophageal dilatation = not awesome.

Lágnætti
07-04-2010, 06:59 PM
I knew the believers wouldn't be able to pass up a chance to have a good gloat and show off their poor grasp of argumentation upon learning the news. I did though think they'd wait until he'd died before they started. I hope he gives them both barrels for this.

Pete!
07-06-2010, 11:26 AM
You know, it never occurred to me that Peter Hitchens (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/search.html?s=y&authornamef=Peter+Hitchens) was related. Makes perfect sense. Imagine how insufferable Christopher Hitchens would be if he was a perpetually incorrect, God-addled, reactionary right-winger. Then imagine it ten times worse. Of course Peter Hitchens is a cunt. I'm just wondering if he'll be crass enough to pen a column about his brother's illness and atheism (I reckon he will be).

Nancy
07-06-2010, 12:45 PM
Tom Sutcliffe weighs in:

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/columnists/thomas-sutcliffe/tom-sutcliffe-hitchens-baffles--the-godly-ndash-again-2019236.html

Social Studies: I imagine Hitchens needs a laugh and that these reactions will give him one


A New York minute, as once defined by Johnny Carson, is the gap between a Manhattan traffic light turning green and the guy behind honking his horn. It's considerably shorter than a nanosecond, a more formal measurement of extreme brevity, and it's probably the only available unit we have for calibrating the time that elapsed between the announcement that Christopher Hitchens has esophageal cancer and the first appearance of online interpretations of the religious significance of that fact.

I take it Hitchens must have braced himself for this. You don't publish a book called God is Not Great without exciting the wrath of the godly and in the past Hitchens has shown every sign of thriving on excited wrath. So he must have known that any misfortune that befell him from a broken shoelace to a full-blown lightning strike would be interpreted in some quarters as divine retribution.

Naturally it isn't easy for Christians to come straight out and say "serves you right". Virtually all of them can see that might make God look a bit small-minded. The posting on a blog called Associates for Biblical Research is fairly typical of the more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger tone adopted by most. "It is not our place as Christians to say the specific reasons why Mr Hitchens has contracted this disease", writes Henry B Smith Jr. "We only know that God often uses illness as a means to bring people to repentance and faith. We can only hope Mr Hitchens responds." Odd, you might think God chooses not to operate through the arguments of the faithful, or surely the most candid approach a Pauline blast of light in the arrivals lounge at Damascus International. Instead he gets Mr Hitchens' attention by allowing his squamous cells to run amok, with the implicit threat of torture and death in there somewhere.

I imagine Hitchens needs a laugh right now and I'm guessing that these reactions will be giving him one as Christians try to work out how to thread the gap between saying that cancer is a kind of divine rebuke (bit awkward, given how many of the devout succumb to the disease) while making sure they don't miss out on the opportunity to incorporate this event into a theologically ordered world. I do hope he hasn't missed a contribution from George Berkin, on a website called NJ.Com, who rather ingeniously sidesteps the problem by construing Hitchens's illness as a sign of God's charity. The cancer wasn't given by God, Mr Berkin points out, but was "certainly permitted" by him. I wonder how he imagines this working? Did somebody else in the office come up with the idea but have to get it signed off by the boss first? Did God see it pencilled in the cosmic dayplanner and sulkily think "Well, if I don't exist I can hardly intervene, can I, Mr Smartypants?"

Or was it as Mr Berkin suggests an act of divine kindness? "If God really wanted to 'get' Hitchens," he writes, "God would ignore the man, and let him go his blissful way, unchallenged, to a peaceful death." Instead, though, God has "permitted" his cancer as "a prod to get serious". If laughter is the best medicine, this kind of thing can't do anything but help. In the meantime I hope Mr Hitchens gets better and I can hardly wait for the piece he will write about the folly and delusional thinking the news of his illness provoked.

Barbarella
08-06-2010, 04:46 PM
Great interview, Cancer & God:


http://cnn.com/video/?/video/bestoftv/2010/08/05/ac.hitchens.on.cancer.god.cnn

Medusa
08-06-2010, 06:01 PM
Ugh, that is like a facebook status witnessed recently. "God: 1, Hitchens: 0." I was like "glorying in another's misfortune, that is just like what Jesus would do!" and also "good Christians never suffer illness or misfortune!"

If you're a good christian, suffering and pain (all of which is part of god's plan) has some sort of merit to it, a la job. The more you suffer, the closer to god you must be.

If you're not christian, suffering and pain (all of which is part of god's plan) has some merit to it, a la sodom and gomorrah. The more you suffer, the further from god you must be.

Steve SFM
08-07-2010, 04:30 AM
Great interview, Cancer & God:


http://cnn.com/video/?/video/bestoftv/2010/08/05/ac.hitchens.on.cancer.god.cnn

I loved that. His attitude is pure Hitchens, and he's as eloquent as ever. I liked how he allowed that there might indeed be a "deathbed conversion" - if he's become demented near the time of his death. And people do get that way sometimes. My mom did.

And this just touched my heart.


"You said you burned the candle at both ends," Cooper said.

"And it gave a lovely light," Hitchens responded.

Bless him. In a completely secular way, of course. [post28]

Mordecai
08-09-2010, 11:33 PM
Another depressing interview:

http://gawker.com/5608640/christopher-hitchens-how-am-i-im-dying

Contick1234
08-11-2010, 04:04 PM
Another depressing interview:

http://gawker.com/5608640/christopher-hitchens-how-am-i-im-dying

Mostly depressing because of the ludicrous interviewer who keeps interrupting a dying man.

The Seaward
08-11-2010, 11:29 PM
I've not always agreed with Hitchens, but the world would be a poorer place without his sheer bloody-mindedness and withering scorn. Fingers crossed for the bugger.

i concur. pull through, ya crusty old sod. there are many people in this world you have yet to piss off. i'm counting on you.

Alan
08-11-2010, 11:48 PM
You know, it never occurred to me that Peter Hitchens (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/search.html?s=y&authornamef=Peter+Hitchens) was related. Makes perfect sense. Imagine how insufferable Christopher Hitchens would be if he was a perpetually incorrect, God-addled, reactionary right-winger. Then imagine it ten times worse. Of course Peter Hitchens is a cunt. I'm just wondering if he'll be crass enough to pen a column about his brother's illness and atheism (I reckon he will be).Yeah, they're, uh, estranged. Ha.

They did a debate together, discussing Iraq and God, which is pretty great. Christopher wipes the floor with his brother. The whole thing is on YouTube.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5cxwq6QK7o

edit: changed the video because the above is just a brilliant, brilliant exposition of his position on religion.

Steve SFM
08-12-2010, 02:23 AM
Mostly depressing because of the ludicrous interviewer who keeps interrupting a dying man.

To me, mostly depressing because the only thing he keeps getting asked about is the prayer thing. It's like he's an exhibit or something: "Ooh, look at the dying atheist!" He's more than that. This is a rare opportunity to hear from a genuinely eloquent person, an absolute master of prose, about the disease/dying process. The good thing is that it sounds like he's writing about it.

Churumbela
08-12-2010, 09:56 PM
You know, I understand what he's expressing, and he isn't wrong, but I guess I worry that he might do himself a disservice with the "How am I? I'm dying" attitude. He's getting treatment, so that's good, and he says that his cancer is only in his throat, which is excellent. Based on that, he has a one in five chance of living five years or more. I know it sounds hokey, but hope can be a pretty big part of the process.

Mordecai
08-12-2010, 11:08 PM
You know, I understand what he's expressing, and he isn't wrong, but I guess I worry that he might do himself a disservice with the "How am I? I'm dying" attitude. He's getting treatment, so that's good, and he says that his cancer is only in his throat, which is excellent. Based on that, he has a one in five chance of living five years or more. I know it sounds hokey, but hope can be a pretty big part of the process.

It's spread to his lymph nodes.

Mordecai
08-12-2010, 11:10 PM
Even more vids:

http://www.theatlantic.com/video/

Churumbela
08-12-2010, 11:24 PM
It's spread to his lymph nodes.

He states that it's still in his throat, so that implies regional lymph node involvement, rather than distant. Stage IIB or III, five year survival rate of 19% (according to the NCI website based on the most recently available SEER data). That is what I based my estimate on.

Mordecai
08-12-2010, 11:38 PM
He states that it's still in his throat, so that implies regional lymph node involvement, rather than distant. Stage 3, five year survival rate of 19%. That is what I based my estimate on.

On doing more research, it's spread not only to his lymph nodes but to one of his lungs.

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/reliable-source/2010/08/quoted_christopher_hitchens_on.html

Not sure at what stage that places him.

Churumbela
08-12-2010, 11:47 PM
I stand corrected, then. That would be Stage IV, which is the highest stage. Five year rate for that is extremely low, 3 - 5%. (It's totally unfair to do this kind of thing, as it's anecdotal and not at all scientific, but my grandmother died just over 1 year after her diagnosis with small cell lung cancer. It has a very similar five year survival rate to metastatic esophageal cancer.) Interesting, though, that the article you linked and the interview with Goldberg wouldn't seem to have happened that far apart from each other chronologically and definitely contradict each other. Hitchens certainly doesn't seem like a man who would put a bright face on things and downplay the extent of his illness.

Obviously, I respect his choice of dealing with this however he chooses. I'm very glad he decided to pursue treatment, though it is most definitely one of the more grueling I've seen patients go through.

Steve SFM
08-12-2010, 11:54 PM
I honestly think that he's pursuing treatment to buy a little more time to write and be with his daughters. Which makes me respect him all the more. However, I do hope that he is able to let go when his life is just miserable, which it would be eventually.

Churumbela
08-13-2010, 12:01 AM
That's a pretty common reason to have treatment. Odd as it may sound, a few cycles of chemo can actually reduce the side effects of the cancer itself for a period of time (so long as you don't find the chemo intolerable, which in the case of esophageal cancer, a lot of patients really do), thus being a form of palliative care and allowing the patient a higher quality of life than if he/she had simply chosen to go on hospice care. Chemo can sometimes shrink the tumor enough that you don't have to get a feeding tube, which is preferable to a lot of people. Feeding tubes SUCK.