Cancer expert: Ebert shining example of survivorship culture
Published 6:01 pm, Monday, April 8, 2013
When beloved film critic Roger Ebert passed away last week at age 70, following a long -- and very public -- battle with cancer, stories talked not just about his indelible role in popular culture, but also his refusal to be struck down by his illness.
After cancer in his thyroid and salivary glands took both his ability to eat and his ability to speak, he wrote openly about both these facts. He allowed himself to be photographed after his lower jaw was removed, stating in a 2011 NPR interview with Melissa Block that "it's how I look, and there's nothing I can do about it. We spend too much time as a society denying illness. It's a fact of life."
He refused to disappear while ill. If anything, Ebert became an even more prolific writer, taking to his blog and other forms of social media to write about movies, politics and, of course, his health. This sort of openness is becoming more common, not just among those in the public eye with cancer, but in cancer patients in general said Jessica Tynan-Lynch, community relations manager for the American Cancer Society. "I definitely think there isn't the stigma there once was," said Tynan-Lynch, who is based out of the Harold Leever Regional Cancer Center in Waterbury. "People used to hear the word `cancer' and think of an immediate passing."
But because of how long people are able to survive with a diagnosis, she said, cancer patients are thinking more about the future, and how they don't want their illness to keep them from pursuing their lives and their passions. Indeed, hospitals all over the state have set up "survivorship" or "cancer rehabilitation" programs that use diet, exercise, physical therapy and other avenues to help people cope with and recover from cancer treatments like radiation and chemotherapy. The idea is to help people recover as much of their pre-cancer quality of life as possible.
Tynan-Lynch said Ebert, with his commitment to living a full life while waging a tough -- and in some ways debilitating -- battle with cancer, can stand as a role model for many patients. "(He) sets a good example for regular folks by saying `It's OK to talk about it, and you are going to be able to thrive during and after your treatment," she said.
This story originally appeared on the blog What the Health?
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