Writer Christopher Hitchens, 62, died Thursday of pneumonia, a complication of the esophageal cancer he battled for more than a year.
Hitchens was best known for his essays about politics and faith. An atheist, he famously debated religion with practicing Christians, including former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and National Institutes of Health director Dr. Francis Collins. But in the last year of his life he also distinguished himself by writing about his cancer, penning a National Magazine Award-winning series of columns for the magazine Vanity Fair.
Hitchens documented his stay in "Tumorville," as he called it. He reflected on his emotions upon learning his diagnosis and starting chemotherapy. About losing his hair, he wrote:
I was fairly reconciled to the loss of my hair, which began to come out in the shower in the first two weeks of treatment, and which I saved in a plastic bag so that it could help fill a floating dam in the Gulf of Mexico. But I wasn’t quite prepared for the way that my razorblade would suddenly go slipping pointlessly down my face, meeting no stubble. Or for the way that my newly smooth upper lip would begin to look as if it had undergone electrolysis, causing me to look a bit too much like somebody’s maiden auntie. (The chest hair that was once the toast of two continents hasn’t yet wilted, but so much of it was shaved off for various hospital incisions that it’s a rather patchy affair.) I feel upsettingly de-natured.