Roger Ebert: I Didn't Know I'd Never Be Able to Speak Again (Video)

5:53 PM PST 09/14/2011 by Kimberly Nordyke
Patrick Jube/Getty Images

When the movie critic was left unable to talk or eat after losing his lower jaw to cancer, "I felt awful, but I had to accept reality," he says.

Roger Ebert says he had no warning that he would be left unable to speak after losing his lower jaw to thyroid and salivary gland cancer.

"There was never a time when anyone told me I'd never be able to speak again," the movie critic told Today's Natalie Morales. "Naturally, I felt awful, but I had to accept reality."

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Ebert now talks with the aid of a computer; he types what he wants to say, and a digital voice reads the text. But that's the not only way his life has changed.

"I was always extroverted," he said. "Now I am forced to live more within my mind."

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Still, Ebert has been able to continue doing what he loves. He still travels to film festival, attends at least five screenings a week and still writes reviews as well as a blog for his longtime employer, the Chicago Sun-Times. He also produces the show Ebert Presents: At the Movies with wife Chaz and has a new memoir, Life Itself, out this week.

Ebert became a household name thanks to his long-running movie-review show with Gene Siskel, Siskel & Ebert and the Movies. Siskel died in 1999, three years before Ebert was diagnosed with cancer.

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Asked what Siskel might say if he were still alive, Ebert replied: "He would have been wholehearted in my corner through these troubles. Although we argued almost as a way of live, we shared a deep understanding of one another. He would also have continued to make jokes about me. 'Well, at least you don't need a bookmark anymore to find your chin.'"

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