Film critic Roger Ebert’s jawbone was partially removed due to cancer in 2006. Through his recovery and several failed attempts at reconstruction, he lost the ability to speak, eat, or drink, but he continued to review movies and post to his website. Meanwhile, Dr. David J. Reisberg and David Rotter from the University of Illinois and artist Julie Jordan Brown worked to make Ebert a new prosthetic chin, which was recently fitted.
I will wear the prosthesis on the new television show. That’s not to fool anyone, because my appearance is widely known. It will be used in a medium shot of me working in my office, and will be a pleasant reminder of the person I was for 64 years. Symbolically, it’s as if my illness never happened and, hey, here I still am, on the show with these new kids. When people see the “Roger’s Office” segment, they’ll notice my voice more than my appearance.
At the beginning of this process I assumed I would wear the new prosthesis whenever I left the house, so that “nobody would know.” But everybody knows. The photograph of me that appeared in Esquire even found its way onto billboards in China. And something else has happened since that day in the hospital: I accept the way I look. Lord knows I paid the dues.