My quick scan of images of Christopher Hitchens was telling: most of the images showed him holding a cigarette. Using one of those in a post about his esophageal cancer would be crass. I know why it was his prop - what do you do with your hands? He certainly never expected it to be such a big deal:
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. Instead, I am badly oppressed by a gnawing sense of waste.
I'm going to hope there aren't any anti-smoking zealots low rent enough to consider this diagnosis some sort of victory. (see? see what you get?) Sadly, anti-smoking zealots very seldom surprise you with their humanity when there's an "I told you so" in the balance.
One group you won't get an "I told you so" from:
I am quietly resolved to resist bodily as best I can, even if only passively, and to seek the most advanced advice. My heart and blood pressure and many other registers are now strong again: indeed, it occurs to me that if I didn’t have such a stout constitution I might have led a much healthier life thus far. Against me is the blind, emotionless alien, cheered on by some who have long wished me ill. But on the side of my continued life is a group of brilliant and selfless physicians plus an astonishing number of prayer groups. On both of these I hope to write next time if—as my father invariably said—I am spared.
I completely understand him being astonished. Now my minimum hope is that he has enough calm time left to understand why he shouldn't have been astonished. My prayer is that he beats this thing outright.