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The author (Christopher Hitchins) says that he'll decide when to do the straight talking thank you very much and he really wants to hear inspiring stories of people who have got better against the odds.
Ever since I was felled in mid-book tour this summer, I have adored and seized all chances to play catch-up and to keep as many engagements as I can. Debating and lecturing are part of the breath of life to me, and I take deep drafts whenever and wherever possible. I also truly enjoy the face time with you, dear reader, whether or not you bring a receipt for a shiny new copy of my memoirs. But here is what happened while I was waiting to sign copies at an event in Manhattan a few weeks ago. Picture, if you will, me sitting at my table, approached by a motherly-looking woman (a key constituent of my demographic):
She: I was so sorry to hear you had been ill.
Me: Thank you for saying so.
She: A cousin of mine had cancer.
Me: Oh, I am sorry to hear that.
She: [As the line of customers lengthens behind her.] Yes, in his liver.
Me: That’s never good.
She: But it went away, after the doctors had told him it was incurable.
Me: Well, that’s what we all want to hear.
She: [With those farther back in line now showing signs of impatience.] Yes. But then it came back, much worse than before.
Me: Oh, how dreadful.
She: And then he died. It was agonizing. Agonizing. Seemed to take him forever.
Me: [Beginning to search for words.] …
She: Of course, he was a lifelong homosexual.
Me: [Not quite finding the words, and not wishing to sound stupid by echoing “of course.”] …
She: And his whole immediate family disowned him. He died virtually alone.
Me: Well, I hardly know what to …
She: Anyway, I just wanted you to know that I understand exactly what you are going through.
So if you had cancer what would you want people to say to you and what would you want them not to say?