Famed film critic Roger Ebert is taking a "leave of presence" from his career following yet another setback in his health. On Tuesday, April 2 — a little more than a decade after his first cancer diagnosis — the Chicago Sun-Times reviewer announced on his website that his cancer had returned and would require him to scale down his workload while he receives treatment.
In a blog post about the unfortunate development, the 70-year-old At the Movies co-host explained that the diagnosis resulted from his hip injury last December. "The immediate reason for my 'leave of presence' is my health. The 'painful fracture' that made it difficult for me to walk has recently been revealed to be a cancer," he wrote. "It is being treated with radiation, which has made it impossible for me to attend as many movies as I used to."
Ebert noted, however, that he would not be abandoning his post completely. Rather, he plans to simply "slow down" — which means "reviewing only the movies [he wants] to review," instead of the 300-plus he reviewed last year (in addition to blog posts and other articles).
"What in the world is a leave of presence? It means I am not 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," he assured readers.
Other critics, including Ebert's former At the Movies co-host Richard Roeper, have "stepped up" to help with coverage of major releases for the Sun-Times. And more will be recruited for the relaunch of RogerEbert.com, which will "offer many more reviews of indie, foreign, documentary and restored classic revivals."
Ebert also plans to include more personal, non-film-related reflections on the revamped site. "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," he explained. "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."
"I hope you'll stop by, and look for me. I'll be there," he concluded. "So on this day of reflection I say again, thank you for going on this journey with me. I'll see you at the movies."
Ebert was first diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2002. He underwent several surgeries in the years after and lost his voice in 2006 as a result of complications from one of the operations. Two years later, he suffered his first hip fracture after further surgery to address the previous complications and reconstruct his jaw and throat.
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