Christopher Hitchens is saddened to find that the cancer he’s fighting has begun to take away his voice — though he can still write, speech has become a struggle — a notion he finds most disheartening. As one who has made a career out of speaking, I sympathize with him.

I remember when this happened to my father. Though he didn’t have cancer, his body atrophied long before his mind did. When we would sit together, I could see the frustration in his face, knowing that his mighty brain was still capable of creating ideas and images, but his mouth and throat couldn’t form them into anything audible anymore. After a lifetime of conversation, lectures, retorts, quips, and rejoinders, losing the power of verbal expression must be impossibly tough.