Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Dinner with Roger Ebert
Film critic Roger Ebert was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2002. He later underwent surgery and treatment for cancer in his salivary glands, and near his right jaw.
These surgeries resulted his inability to speak, eat or drink- he has a feeding tube.
In his very touching blog entry, Nil By Mouth, Roger Ebert tells his story of losing the ability to eat, drink, and speak... something that most of us just couldn't imagine.
I've been reading, in class, about the use of storytelling (aka the narrative) as a way for caregivers to better understand their clients, and as a way for individuals to understand, control, make sense of what's happening to them; as a way to cope, to heal. Another purpose of storytelling is to make the personal public- to connect with others, to share, to get others thinking and talking ("personal narratives energize public narratives"). Kind of describes a blog, right?
As you read Roger Ebert's story (or my summary, below), think about the role of storytelling:
If you have a journal or a blog (and blog about your life)... why? What does it bring to you?
If you don't write down your story- keep a journal, for example- do you think doing so would help you... cope with, understand, have control over.... certain situations in your life?
If you were to see a new health care provider- a doctor, dietitian, therapist etc.- would you feel more comfortable and honest telling them why you're there, or presenting them with a story? Which would represent you best?
Roger Ebert's Story (as summarized by me):
Ebert writes that he was never told that he might lose the ability to eat, drink or speak during his first surgery, and while subsequent surgeries were supposed to 'fix the problem', they failed... and, he recalls, "it gradually became clear that it wouldn't ever be right again. There wasn't some soul-dropping moment for that realization. It just...developed. I never felt hungry, I never felt thirsty, I wasn't angry because the doctors had done their best. But I went through a period of obsession about food and drink".
In his hospital room, he recounted his fantasies of drinking Root Beer to his brother-in-law and his wife, telling them that, for the first time in 60 years, he remembered, with complete clarity, driving with his father to the A&W Root Beer stand.
His brother-in-law, a religious man, interpreted Ebert's "story" in terms of his own faith, saying:
"Could be, when the Lord took away your drinking, he gave you back your memory".
Ebert states that: "those were the words I needed to hear. And from that time I began to replace what I had lost with what I remembered".
But while he could remember clearly the meal he regularly ordered at Steak n' Shake or the tastes and texture of the amazing "cheap" candy he used to buy, what he missed most about not eating was not the food, but the loss of dining. He ends his story:
"It may be personal, but for me, unless I'm alone, it doesn't involve dinner if it doesn't involve talking. The food and drink I can do without easily. The jokes, gossip, laughs, arguments and shared memories I miss. Sentences beginning with the words, "Remember that time?" I ran in crowds where anyone was likely to break out in a poetry recitation at any time. Me too. But not me anymore. So yes, it's sad. Maybe that's why I enjoy this blog. You don't realize it, but we're at dinner right now".