Speaking on the BBC's Newsnight programme, in November that year, he reflected on a life that he knew would be cut short: "It does concentrate the mind, of course, to realise that your life is more rationed than you thought it was."
Radicalised by the 1960s, Hitchens was often arrested at political rallies and was kicked out of the Labour Party over his opposition to the Vietnam War.
Denis McShane MPHe could throw words up into the sky, they fell down in a marvellous pattern”
He supported the Iraq War and backed George W Bush for re-election in 2004.
It led to him being accused of betrayal: one former friend called him "a lying, opportunistic, cynical contrarian", another "a drink-sodden ex-Trotskyist popinjay".
But he could dish out scathing critiques himself. Bill Clinton he called "a cynical, self-seeking ambitious thug", Henry Kissinger a war criminal and Mother Teresa a fraudulent fanatic.
'A great voice'
He also famously fell out with his brother, the Mail On Sunday journalist Peter Hitchens, though the pair were later reconciled.
Hitchens could be a loyal friend. He stood by the author Salman Rushdie during the furore that followed the publication of his novel The Satanic Verses.
Writing on Twitter after the announcement of Hitchens' death, Mr Rushdie said: "Goodbye, my beloved friend. A great voice falls silent. A great heart stops."
The MP Denis McShane was a student at Oxford with Hitchens.
Nick Clegg Deputy Prime MinisterChristopher Hitchens was everything a great essayist should be: infuriating, brilliant, highly provocative and yet intensely serious”
"He could throw words up into the sky, they fell down in a marvellous pattern."
Prolific writer The publication of his 2007 book God Is Not Great made him a major celebrity in his adopted homeland of the United States, and he happily took on the role of the country's best-known atheist.
He maintained his devout atheism after being diagnosed with cancer, telling one interviewer: "No evidence or argument has yet been presented which would change my mind. But I like surprises."
The author and prominent atheist Richard Dawkins described him as the "finest orator of our time" and a "valiant fighter against all tyrants including God".
He said Hitchens had been a "wonderful mentor in a way".
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who once worked as an intern for Hitchens, said: "Christopher Hitchens was everything a great essayist should be: infuriating, brilliant, highly provocative and yet intensely serious.
"He will be massively missed by everyone who values strong opinions and great writing."
Hitchens wrote for numerous publications including The Times Literary Supplement, the Daily Express, the London Evening Standard, Newsday and The Atlantic.
He was the author of 17 books, including The Trial of Henry Kissinger, How Religion Poisons Everything and a memoir, Hitch-22.
A collection of his essays, Arguably, was released this year.