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Christopher Hitchens On Cancer: I'm 'Realistic' About Odds Of Survival, Pray For Me If You Want (VIDEO)

First Posted: 08/06/10 10:28 AM ET Updated: 05/25/11 06:15 PM ET

Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens appeared on "Anderson Cooper 360" Thursday in his first TV appearance since his diagnosis with esophageal cancer.

Hitchens, whose father died at 79 of the same disease, said that even he has wondered, "Why me?"

"You can't avoid the question however stoic you are, you can only bat it away as a silly one," he said. "Millions of people die every day. Everyone's got to go sometime. I've came by this particular tumor honestly. If you smoke, which I did for many years very heavily with occasional interruption, and if you use alcohol, you make yourself a candidate for it in your sixties."

"You said you burned the candle at both ends," Cooper said.

"And it gave a lovely light," Hitchens responded.

"Do you think part of that way you lived is responsible for this?"

"It would be very idle to deny it, and I might as well say to anyone watching, if you can hold it down on the smokes and the cocktails you may be well advised to do so," Hitchens said.

As for his odds of survival, Hitchens says he is "realistic" about his chances given his diagnosis:

"I'm not resigned, but I'm realistic too. The statistics in my case are very poor. Not many people come through esophageal cancer and live to talk about it, or not for long. And the other wager is, the part of the wager, it's a certainty you'll have a terrible time and you may wish you were dying because it's an awful process. That you can't escape, you're going to get that no matter what. Then the torture may or may not be worth it or it will be torture by execution."

Hitchens, an outspoken atheist, says he appreciates the prayer groups sprouting up in his honor but he "shall not be taking part in that."

"That's all meaningless to me," he told Cooper. "I don't think souls or bodies can be changed by incantation. Or anything else by the way...[but] I say if it makes you feel better then you have my blessing."

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Filed by Danny Shea  |