Posted in Essay, Jamie Dedes

Roger Ebert “…online, everybody speaks at the same speed.”

ROGER EBERT (1942-2013)

film critic, screenwriter, Pulitzer Prize for Criticism

Ebert at the Conference on World Affairs in September 2002,

shortly after his cancer diagnosis


This following piece on Roger Ebert was originally written for our Perspectives on Cancer series in 2011. I don’t know how well known Roger Ebert is outside of the United States; and while he is best know and appreciated as a journalist and film critic, I feel his inspiring response to catastrophic illness makes him a true hero and role model for anyone anywhere. Earlier this week the Chicago Sun Times announced Roger Ebert’s death from cancer.

Roger Eberts cancer and treatments took away his jawbone, his ability to speak, and even his ability to eat and drink. He continued writing right to the end, said that when he wrote he was just like his old self, and he wrote his last tweet two days before his death. Of his life online, he said:

 Now we live in the age of the Internet, which seems to be creating a form of global consciousness. And because of it, I can communicate as well as I ever could. We are born into a box of time and space. We use words and communication to break out of it and to reach out to others.

For me, the Internet began as a useful tool and now has become something I rely on for my actual daily existence. I cannot speak; I can only type so fast. Computer voices are sometimes not very sophisticated, but with my computer, I can communicate more widely than ever before. I feel as if my blog, my email, Twitter and Facebook have given me a substitute for everyday conversation. They aren’t an improvement, but they’re the best I can do. They give me a way to speak. Not everybody has the patience of my wife, Chaz… But online, everybody speaks at the same speed.” Roger Ebert

Born in Urbana, Illinois to parents of modest means who wanted a better life for him then they had, Ebert’s affinity for writing and film were encouraged. He went to Urbana High School, University of Chicago, and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is known for his film column in the Chicago Sun-Times (1967 – April 4, 2013), his film guide books, and for the television programs he did in collaboration with Gene Siskel and later Richard Roeper. Ebert struggled with alcoholism. He is married to a trial attorney, Charlie “Chaz” Hammel Smith, now Chaz Ebert and VP of Ebert Company. 

In 2002, Ebert was diagnosed with salivary cancer. He received radiation treatments and multiple surgeries that effected his speech. In 2006, more cancer was found in his jaw bone. He was rushed to the hospital when his carotid artery burst and he “came within a breath of death.”  The jaw bone was removed. Between one thing and another, he suffered through excessive bleeding, loss of muscle mass, deformity, a jaw prosthetic, and the loss of his voice. In the TED Award video below, he informs us of his – among other things – experiments with different voices.

I have always admired Roger Ebert as a writer, film critic, and the first film critic to win the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. Since he has been living with cancer and then the fallout from cancer, I have come to admire Roger Ebert, the man. He has shown himself to be a world-class role model and a first class human being. As you will see, through it all, he has retained his sense of humor. Write on Roger

ROGER EBERT: Remaking My Voice

Photo credits ~ Ebert at the 2004 Savaanah Film Festival by Rebert under GNU Free Documentation License and Lillian Boutte and Roger Ebert by Jon Hurd under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Both photos via Wikipedia.

Video upload to YouTube by 

Belated addition to this post 12:22 a.m.: I just found this lovely essay by Roger Ebert entitled, “I do not fear death …” on Salon’s site. Link to it HERE.

ge-officeJamie Dedes ~  My mother lived with cancer of one sort or another for forty years. She was diagnosed with cancer the first time at thirty-six.  She was pregnant with me, her second and last child. She had a radical mastectomy and radiation treatments while pregnant. Ultimately, she went three rounds with breast cancer, one with thyroid cancer, and died at seventy-six of breast and colon cancer. I pray everyday for cures. Advancements in medicine and technology give us hope. I’m also encouraged to see that we are doing more with lifestyle and nutrition (antiangiogenic foods), both prophylactically and for healing and remission, and with the soft technologies of prayer, guided visualization, energy medicine, meditation, music and art.

Posted in Guest Writer, Perspectives on Cancer


Although this book concerns living with chronic illness … which may not be life-threatening but is certainly quality of life-threatening … many of the issues Toni Bernhard discusses are relevent issues for cancer patients. Not the least of these issues is isolation. The book is available online through Barnes and Noble and Amazon or through the publisher HERE. Three thumbs up on this one. A recommended read. Jamie Dedes


A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers


Toni Bernhard

“All human beings need the company and support of others. We create our world together. But community can be a tremendous challenge for someone who must spend a lot of time in bed or must suddenly take to bed in spite of plans to be with others. The Dharma places a very high value on community, which is called sangha. The word originally referred to the disciples of the Buddha. It then evolved to include Buddhist monks and nuns. Today sangha refers to the entire spiritual community that supports a practitioner . . . .

“Before I got sick, I was active in several Buddhist sanghas. I co-hosted a weekly meditation group with Tony [Toni’s husband]. We used a local meeting hall every Monday night. At least once a month, I would lead the sitting and then give a talk. We also hosted a monthly group at our house in which we discussed Dharma readings that Tony and I chose and distributed each month. The readings were the starting point for a spirited and often humorous two hours of reviewing our lives since we last met. This was sangha at its richest for me. Tony still hosts this group at our house.

“When I got sick, I could no longer participate in these activities, even though the meeting hall is three blocks away and the monthly group is a room away . . . . In addition to losing this precious source of spiritual support, I had to adjust to the social isolation that accompanied the illness like night follows day.

“‘It’s hard to distinguish between the effects of my illness and the effects of isolation,’ wrote a member of an online support group for people with an illness similar to mine. I, too, have days when the isolation feels like the illness itself. People who are house-bound are not just isolated from one-on-one personal contacts. We are often isolated from nature and even from the warm feel or a friendly crowd. Our best bet to see the changing seasons is on the drive to and from a doctor’s appointment, but this is often a stress-filled outing. Similarly, our best bet to be in a crowd is in the waiting room at the doctor’s office—not the most comfortable or uplifting of settings. I recently read a blog entry from a woman with chronic fatigue syndrome in which she said she went to get a blood test a week early just to be around people.”

© text and cover art, Toni Bernhard, 2011 all rights reserved. Blogged here with the permission of the author. No reblogging without Toni Bernhard’s permission.

Video uploaded to YouTube by . I’m the author of “How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers” (Wisdom Publications 2010). The theme of the book is that illness and wellness are not mutually exclusive. Our bodies may be sick or otherwise disabled, but our minds can be at peace. For reviews and other information, including where you can order the book, please go to How To Be Sick.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Toni Bernhard fell ill on a trip to Paris in 2001 with what doctors initially diagnosed as an acute viral infection. She has not recovered. In 1982, she’d received a J.D. from the School of Law at the University of California, Davis, and immediately joined the faculty where she stayed until chronic illness forced her to retire. During her twenty-two years on the faculty, she served for six years as Dean of Students.

In 1992, she began to study and practice Buddhism. Before becoming ill, she attended many meditation retreats and led a meditation group in Davis with her husband.

She lives in Davis with her husband, Tony, and their hound dog, Rusty. Toni can be found online at How To Be Sick. [Bio courtesy of Wisdom Publications.]