Christopher Hitchens: “I taunted the reaper” [Excerpts]
Christopher Hitchens was diagnosed with cancer in June, and he opens up about the ordeal in the September 2010 issue of Vanity Fair.
"I have more than once in my time woken up feeling like death. 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," he writes. "The whole cave of my chest and thorax seemed to have been hollowed out and then refilled with slow-drying cement. ... 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."
Hitchens was describing the events leading up to his hospitalization, in which he learned of his diagnosis.
"In whatever kind of a 'race' life may be, I have very abruptly become a finalist. ... 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," he writes. "Rage would be beside the point for the same reason. Instead, I am badly oppressed by a gnawing sense of waste. I had real plans for my next decade and felt I’d worked hard enough to earn it. Will I really not live to see my children married? To watch the World Trade Center rise again? To read — if not indeed write — the obituaries of elderly villains like Henry Kissinger and Joseph Ratzinger?"
Many Hitchens fans have discussed praying for him, a famous nonbeliever. Yet, in Hitchens's final paragraph, he lauds the "astonishing number of prayer groups" and promises to write on that topic at a later date.