Over the weekend, I got a note fromSusanwith some questions about head/neck/oral cancers. Istarted digging around on the 'net, looking for information on head, neck, and throat cancers. Any and every search combination of those cancer terms kept returning a familiar name:Roger Ebert.
I'm sure most people know Roger Ebert - one of the best film critics and long time contributor to the ChicagoSun Times. As a kid, I remember watching "Siskel and Ebert" on TV and thinking they had the BEST JOBS in the world - watch movies, eat popcorn, write a movie review! What could be better than that? I'm sure I was caught up with the 'watching' and 'eating' part of the movie review. Being a film critic is definitely not easy; countless hours go into researching, watching, and writing about a movie. His career has spanned decades and he's reviewed thousands upon thousands of movies. He's dedicated to his craft and has had a phenomenal impact on the movie industry.
Ebert's struggle with cancer started in 2002 when he was diagnosed withthyroid cancer. I vaguely remember hearing the news back then. I thought it was sad the Ebert would have to deal with cancer so soon afterGene Siskel's death in 1999 from brain cancer. I lost track of the severity of his illness after 2002. I was surprised to read he needed additional surgery forcancer in his salivary glandsin 2003. Cancer invaded his right jaw bone requiring more surgery in 2006. Part of his jaw bone was removed during this surgery causing considerable disfiguration and the loss of his voice. Over the past few years, he's had additional operations in the attempt to restore his voice. He's also lost his ability to eat or drink, and takes all his nourishment through a feeding tube... Yet, through it all, he continues to review movies.
Ebert's always had a way of making me see things in films I'd have missed if I hadn't read his review. His commentary on the lighting, the musical score, the dialog, the bit actors always brings another dimension to a film. There were times when I'd read a review and I'd run right out to watch the movie again, just to "see" what he's written about in such an eloquent and vivid way. He has a way of critiquing a film that peels back layer after layer - you begin to experience hidden emotions and feelings that are right there in the open, on the big screen.
Esquire Magazine just published a lengthy article on Ebert. As a cancer survivor, I struggled to read the entire article. Cancer has a way of striking your soul and haunting you at unexpected times. Reading about Ebert stirred long lost memories and feelings. I finished the Esquire article, sat back on the couch, turned off my computer and started to cry. My heart ached for the man, a bittersweet ache in a way.
I hadn't seen arecent picture of Ebertuntil I read the article. You might look at his picture and see horror, sadness, pain, fear, disgust, anger..... You might look away. It's not easy to look at a picture of a man missing part of his jaw.
I see courage, tenacity, hope, strength, and beauty. I see cancer but I also see a man, standing tall after years of physical struggles and illness. I see a glimmer of happiness in his eyes. Maybe that's what I've learned from Roger Ebert, the film critic - I've learned to look at Roger Ebert, the cancer survivor, and see beauty and hope. Cancer has a face - it's Roger Ebert.