Saved From the Grave (5 times); Was it Worth Ebert’s Travails?

by Steed Dropout
April 8, 2013

ebertHe thought so, but he admitted that his doctors had been less than candid about the downside to his survival.

Was Ebert a medical experiment or worse, an advertisement for surgeries the rest of us would decline?

In a Ted talk shortly before he died, he described five deaths he survived.

Everyone in the humanities and computer sciences — in fact, every American should see this and ask what would you have done?

The incidence of thyroid cancer might seem low (1.03%) but it is rising according to the New York Times.

Other cancers with other drastic medical procedures lie off-shore, waiting to blow in.

Ebert admits that he reached the point of declining further life-extending surgeries. Ebert pulled his own plug, as if to admit it was, at least, no longer worth it.

Had it ever been worth it?

Make no mistake, we are all guinea pigs for medicine. We accept that medicine advances on our backs, if not corpses.

Leave your body to science while you still live.

This is what Ebert did — he donated his body to science.

Ebert told various interviewers that he was happy with a life in which he couldn’t talk, or eat. He was able to accept his disfigurement as a mere prop. He continued to review daily.

“I come to life when I write,” he said.

It is not clear whether his autobiography was a product of this period or begun earlier.

This much is clear. If Roger Ebert had died seven years ago his legacy would have been secure.

In his medical experiment years, he became a poster child for drastic medical intervention to prolong life. Big pharma often touts the benefits of as little as three additional months of life.

Life is precious, to be sure, but at what expense?

The rest of us are left to speculate what we would do.

If only we could live long enough to see a new grandchild, or write the great American Novel.

What is the worth of additional months, or in Ebert’s case — years?

With his choice to continue daily film reviewing, Ebert opted for the mere benefit of survival.

We leave it for scholars to decide whether his back-from-the-grave reviews were worth his condition. The problem here is that Ebert was such a successful person, he could have flourished as road kill — a regular Wiley Coyote.

What about the rest of us?

My best friend had thyroid cancer but opted to bow out rather than submit to disfigurement.

Our doctor friend called his decision “vain.”

I wonder.

Ebert said he had never been good-looking anyway, but he emerged after his second surgery as a freak. He cleverly played that by costuming himself as a film character, Lon Chaney in the Phantom of the Opera.

Ebert’s fans loved it.

He had a second career as a phantom-of-the-opera freak.

My friend, a physicist, with Ebert’s thyroid cancer, opted to go out good-looking, still seeking the answers to the mysteries of life. He knew that an additional seven years was irrelevant.

My friend was eight years younger than Ebert. But age has little to do with it.

Ebert chose to continue publishing his daily reviews.


Because he loved it.

Would Lou Gherig (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, the cruelest of all diseases, which leaves your mind intact in a frozen body) have chosen for a few more swings at the bat?

We’re talking about the value of repetition and the delay of death.

Here in Berkeley, ca, we had a local freak. We called him “Elephant Man” after the freak in David Lynch’s “Elephant Man,” a creature more ugly than the adorable phantom of the opera.

Our Elephant Man had long ago abandoned vanity. He walked among us, flaunting his disfigurement, said to have stemmed from an acid-dousing in a military experiment in the Philipines.

Berkeley treasures freaks. My friend overlooked that.

Ebert embraced freak, a Berkeleyean at heart.

Berkeley loved you, Roger.

We’ll cross this bridge, if we come to it.

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