Tuesday, April 24, 2007

We Spend Too Much Time Hiding Illness

So says Robert Ebert in today's Chicago Sun Times. For those who may not know Mr. Ebert, he is a famous film critic here in the U.S. that became an icon to the film industry. He organized the Overlooked Film Festival in University of Illinois in Urbana, IL and has attended it every year to the delight of his fans.

But there was a twist to his attendance this year:
"What happened was, cancer of the salivary gland spread to my right lower jaw. A segment of the mandible was removed. Two operations to replace the missing segment were unsuccessful, both leading to unanticipated bleeding.

A tracheostomy was necessary so, for the time being, I cannot speak. I make do with written notes and a lot of hand waving and eye-rolling. The doctors now plan an approach that does not involve the risk of unplanned bleeding. If all goes well, my speech will be restored.

So when I turn up in Urbana, I will be wearing a gauze bandage around my neck, and my mouth will be seen to droop. So it goes.

I was told photos of me in this condition would attract the gossip papers. So what? I have been very sick, am getting better and this is how it looks. I still have my brain and my typing fingers."
Remarkably, there were those who encouraged him not to attend because of his appearance - people might make fun of him, or the paparazzi might take unflattering pictures of him - but to that he says:
We spend too much time hiding illness. There is an assumption that I must always look the same.
What a cool guy, huh? He beat the critics and paparazzi at their own game - published pictures of himself and all before they could. And even gave a caption for the pictures of him in his La-Z-Boy watching the movies: "La-Z-Critic."



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