I just finished watching this fantastic TED Talk by Roger Ebert on remaking his voice. Roger Ebert lost his lower jaw — and, thus, his ability to speak — to cancer. This part of his talk, delivered by his wife, Chaz, was quite emotional (text inside the quotes is what she reads from his prepared remarks, outside the quotes are her own words):
“This whole adventure has been a learning experience. Every time there was a surgery that failed, I was left with a little less flesh and bone. Now I have no jaw left at all. While harvesting tissue from both my shoulders, the surgeries left me with back pain and reduced my ability to walk easily. Ironic that my legs are fine and it’s my shoulders that slow up my walk.”
“When you see me today, I look like the Phantom of the Opera–” but no you don’t!… “It is human nature to look at someone like me and assume I have lost some of my marbles. People… People talk loudly and slowly to me. Sometimes they assume I am deaf. There are people who don’t want to make eye contact…” Believe me, he didn’t mean this as — anyways, let me just read it… You should never let your wife read something like this! “It is human nature to look away from illness. We don’t enjoy a reminder of our own fragile mortality.”
“That’s why writing on the Internet has become a lifesaver for me. My ability to think and write have not been affected, and on the web my real voice finds expression. I have also met many other disabled people who communicate this way. One of my Twitter friends can type only with his toes. One of the funniest blogs on the web is written by a friend of mine, named Smart Ass Cripple… All of these people are saying in one way or another that what you see is not all you get. So, I have not come here to complain. I have much to make me happy and relieved.”
Just… watch the whole thing.