Roger Ebert’s Courageous Comeback

CHICAGO, Illinois (November 26, 2007) – Film critic Roger Ebert crossed a milestone when he stepped out last April at his Overlooked Film Festival in Urbana, Illinois. Recently, he went on camera in a more intimate setting with Access Hollywood’s Billy Bush opening our co-host’s eyes to Ebert’s courage.

His voice has been silenced and part of his jaw removed from the after effects of thyroid and salivary cancer, but Roger Ebert’s mind and spirit are very much alive.

To express his words, Roger uses a computer, which reads and speaks what he types out.

“Tell me how your computer has become your new best friend?” Billy asked.

“It allows me to talk to you,” Roger’s reply came from the computer.

With hope, Roger who is now cancer free, may not need his computer to take care of his voice in the future.

“They are going to do some reconstructive surgery on your voice to bring it back. What are the chances of that being successful? Have they spoken to you about that?” Billy asked.

“Reconstructing voice and face, my fingers are keeping crossed,” Roger replied as he raised his crossed fingers. “One can’t say for sure but there is a chance that I will regain my ability to speak.”

Roger has been working through his illness. He’s written “Roger Ebert’s Four-Star Reviews,” which highlights the best he’s seen from his 40-year career. And, in recognition of his achievements, on Tuesday, Roger will be presented with the Gotham Award in New York.

Much of his 40 years reviewing movies was spent alongside partner Gene Siskel, who lost his battle with cancer eight years ago.

“He became a very good friend even though we often fought. We were like brothers in a love hate relationship,” Roger answered with a smile.

Roger’s love relationship? His wife of 15-years, Chaz Hammel-Smith.

“She is my guardian angel,” he beamed. “There is absolutely no way I could have survived mentally or physically without her great spirit.”

Chaz said the illness taught her new things about her husband.

“This illness made me see what a courageous person he is,” she said.

Chaz is hopeful for Roger, but also fearful for the surgeries he has to endure.

“I know that he has to have it and it’s going to make things better but the thought of it is pretty daunting as well for me,” she added.

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