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Friday, April 5, 2013

Roger Ebert and Me

As most people already know, Roger Ebert recently died of cancer. He’d had it for a long time and although disfigured by it, still maintained his public persona.
I saw Roger Ebert once.
Living in Chicago, you see celebrities from time to time. But I didn’t see him on the street, or in a deli, or even at a movie theatre. I saw him at the hospital.
It was the week after I had been diagnosed with something – they were still trying to figure exactly what. I was in the basement having just completed my PET scan. They were wheeling me back up to my room and they wheeled me right past an older mand and a women with big-ish hair who were talking with a doctor. The man was wearing a hospital gown and hospital footies. The woman was looking earnestly at the doctor, presumably listening closely to what he had to say.

I thought the man looked familiar and once it dawned on me that it was Roger Ebert, I almost turned around to the orderly pushing my gurney to say, “Hey! Do you know who that was?!” See him there made me feel a little more certain about choosing Northwestern for my treatment. If Roger Ebert who, presumably, has a great deal of money and could go anywhere for treatment chose to come here, then perhaps it’s trustworthy. 

And I used this story. At the beginning of this cancer thing, my mother was trying to convince me to go to a cancer center like Sloan-Kettering and I guess there’s one in Florida near where she lives. I understood that she wanted me to get the best treatment possible, but I didn’t want to move or travel for treatment. Once I told her that I had seen Roger Ebert and that he was getting treatment where I was, she understood and dropped the subject. 

When I tell people my Roger Ebert story, many of them ask me, “Did you give him two thumbs up? Hardy harr harr!” I have to say that, no, I didn’t give him two thumbs up. The man was (half) dressed in a hospital gown and presumably had gone through some sort of scan. I doubt he was in a “two thumbs up” sort of mood." I know after I have a scan, I'm certainly not.

I am sorry that his time had come. He was inspiring to many people – both with and without cancer. I hope both he and his family are at peace.

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