A recurrence of cancer is forcing Roger Ebert to take a "leave of presence" from his duties as the Chicago Sun-Times film critic, but that doesn't mean he's going away.
"My intent is to continue to write selected reviews but to leave the rest to a talented team of writers handpicked and greatly admired by me. What's more, I'll be able at last to do what I've always fantasized about doing: reviewing only the movies I want to review," Ebert wrote in his online journal.
Ebert, 70, began working as the Sun-Times film critic exactly 46 years ago today. He became a household name after winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1975 and hosting several movie-review TV shows with Richard Roeper and the late Tribune film critic Gene Siskel.
According to the Sun-Times, Ebert was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2002 and cancerous growths in his salivary glands the following year. Complications from the disease and numerous surgeries left him without a lower jaw or the ability to speak or eat.
Cancer didn't stop Ebert from writing columns, reviewing movies or connecting with readers, though. In recent years, he has built a huge audience on Facebook and Twitter, where he frequently comments on a wide variety of topics.
Ebert fractured his hip in 2008 and again last December. The latest injury, which made it difficult for him to walk, was recently revealed to be cancer. Ebert is currently undergoing radiation treatments.
"At this point in my life, in addition to writing about movies, I may write about what it's like to cope with health challenges and the limitations they can force upon you. It really stinks that the cancer has returned and that I have spent too many days in the hospital. So on bad days I may write about the vulnerability that accompanies illness. On good days, I may wax ecstatic about a movie so good it transports me beyond illness," Ebert wrote.
In the meantime, Ebert will continue to coordinate with filmmakers Steve James, Steve Zaillian and Martin Scorsese on a bio-documentary about his life. He will also maintain an online presence on social media, RogerEbert.com and Ebert Digital.