Roger Ebert back to work after cancer surgery

Movie critic Roger Ebert expects to be back to work at his annual festival for overlooked movies this week. It will be his first public appearance since having cancer surgery last summer -- and while some say his appearance may attract the gossip papers, Ebert says, "So what?"

Ebert, 64, will be seen at the ninth annual Overlooked Film Festival, beginning today at the University of Urbana-Champaign, wearing a gauze bandage around his neck. And his mouth will be seen to droop, he says.

This is all because of Ebert's tracheostomy -- it opens an airway through an incision in his windpipe, rendering him speechless -- that resulted from his June 16 surgery to remove a cancerous growth on his salivary gland and a subsequent July 1 surgery to repair a burst blood vessel close to the same site.

On Tuesday, Ebert shared that his cancer began in his salivary gland but then spread to his lower right jaw. As a result, part of his mandible was removed and two surgeries were necessary to reconstruct the area. Both surgeries were unsuccessful, however, and led to unanticipated bleeding.

"The doctors now plan an approach that does not involve the risk of unplanned bleeding," Ebert, a film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times since 1967, says. "If all goes well, my speech will be restored."

This cancer survivor, who says we spend too much time hiding illness and is proud to be back in the spotlight, has also co-hosted the Ebert & Roeper television show with fellow Sun-Times columnist Richard Roeper since 2000. Film critics and filmmakers have been filling in for Ebert during his recovery.


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