If you haven't been following Christopher Hitchen's occasional articles on his battle with cancer, you are missing some extraordinary writing and thinking. It is evident from his writings that Hitch is frightened, looking for answers, and sways between unreasonable hope and the depths of despair. His latest in Vanity Fair
captures all of that and something more; a man coming to grips with his own end:
In her famous essay on Hollywood, Pauline Kael described it as a place where you could die of encouragement. That may still be true of Tinseltown; in Tumortown you sometimes feel that you may expire from sheer advice. A lot of it comes free and unsolicited. I must, without delay, begin ingesting the granulated essence of the peach pit (or is it the apricot?), a sovereign remedy known to ancient civilizations but now covered up by greedy modern doctors. Another correspondent urges heaping doses of testosterone supplements, perhaps as a morale booster. Or I must find ways of opening certain chakras and putting myself in an appropriately receptive mental state. Macrobiotic or vegan diets will be all I require for nourishment during this experience. And don't laugh at poor old Mr. Angstrom above: somebody has written to me from a famous university to suggest that I have myself cryonically or cryogenically frozen against the day when the magic bullet, or whatever it is, has been devised. (When I failed to reply to this, I got a second missive, suggesting that I freeze at least my brain so that its cortex could be appreciated by posterity. Well, I mean to say, gosh, thanks awfully.) As against all that, I did get a kind note from a Cheyenne-Arapaho friend of mine, saying that everyone she knew who had resorted to tribal remedies had died almost immediately, and suggesting that if I was offered any Native American medicines I should "move as fast as possible in the opposite direction." Some advice can actually be taken.
Even in the world of sanity and modernity, though, it often cannot. Extremely well-informed people also get in touch to insist that there is really only one doctor, or only one clinic. These physicians and facilities are as far apart as Cleveland and Kyoto. Even if I had possession of my own aircraft, I would never be able to assure myself that I had tried everyone, let alone everything. The citizens of Tumortown are forever assailed with cures, and rumors of cures. I actually did take myself to one grand palazzo of a clinic in the richer part of the stricken city, which I will not name because all I got from it was a long and dull exposition of what I already knew plus (while lying on one of the fabled establishment's examination tables) a bugbite that briefly doubled the size of my left hand: completely surplus even to my pre-cancerous requirements but a real irritation to someone with a chemically corroded immune system.