Now we know why:
I have been advised by my physician that I must undergo a course of chemotherapy on my esophagus. This advice seems persuasive to me. I regret having had to cancel so many engagements at such short notice.
Good luck, Hitch. I wish you the best moving forward, and naturally, I'm not praying for you.
Footnote--As news of Mr. Hitchens' cancer spread through the blogosphere yesterday, virtually everyone made a comment along the lines of the one I made, or to the effect that they would be praying for him whether he likes it or not. Each sentiment has seemed to upset various groups of people. This is silly. For my part, I intended nothing more than a little black humor, not to make any point about his beliefs (or lack thereof.) More to the point, it happens to be literally true that I won't be praying for him, not out of deference to what he believes, but because of what I do.
Cantankerous as he is, I seriously doubt that Hitch finds the sincere prayers of his believing friends and well-wishers an affront. Nor would I, in his shoes...