NPR logo In 'Vanity Fair' Column, Christopher Hitchens Takes On The 'Topic Of Cancer'

Economy

In 'Vanity Fair' Column, Christopher Hitchens Takes On The 'Topic Of Cancer'

In June, Christopher Hitchens was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. Christian Witkin hide caption

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Christian Witkin

In June, Christopher Hitchens was diagnosed with esophageal cancer.

Christian Witkin

Just over a month ago, we learned that Christopher Hitchens had started to undergo treatment for esophageal cancer.

In the September issue of Vanity Fair, in a piece called "Topic of Cancer," he talks about his illness for the first time.

Because my prose pales in comparison to his, I'll quote Hitch liberally:

"I have more than once in my time woken up feeling like death," he begins. "But nothing prepared me for the early morning last June when I came to consciousness feeling as if I were actually shackled to my own corpse."

The whole cave of my chest and thorax seemed to have been hollowed out and then refilled with slow-drying cement. I could faintly hear myself breathe but could not manage to inflate my lungs. My heart was beating either much too much or much too little. Any movement, however slight, required forethought and planning. It took strenuous effort for me to cross the room of my New York hotel and summon the emergency services. They arrived with great dispatch and behaved with immense courtesy and professionalism. I had the time to wonder why they needed so many boots and helmets and so much heavy backup equipment, but now that I view the scene in retrospect I see it as a very gentle and firm deportation, taking me from the country of the well across the stark frontier that marks off the land of malady.

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Within a few hours, having had to do quite a lot of emergency work on my heart and my lungs, the physicians at this sad border post had shown me a few other postcards from the interior and told me that my immediate next stop would have to be with an oncologist. Some kind of shadow was throwing itself across the negatives.

You can read the whole piece here.