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My story
Shrenik Shah

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My name is Shrenik Shah. I am aged 64, I am Indian and a businessman into global marketing, I am a Cancer Warrior in my 20th year.

In my career, I travelled to 33 countries, promoting dyestuffs and chemicals. I spoke normally until I was 44 but, in 1996, my voice gradually became a whisper and I was examined by several Doctors and ENT surgeons but they couldn’t find anything remarkable. I had never smoked or used tobacco nor drank alcohol. I was travelling abroad making around 7 or 8 trips every year for 10 years in a row, from 2 weeks to 5 weeks each time. In 1997, I started having breathing problems and was unable to sleep on my back. I also gradually lost weight: 10 kgs in 3 months.

In August 1997, suddenly I started bleeding in my sputum and my family physician asked me to see a cancer surgeon. I had a throat endoscopy and biopsy and, at the same time, a tracheotomy was done as I was hardly able to breathe. I was diagnosed with vocal cord cancer during the endoscopy and same was confirmed from pathological report of biopsy stage IV A. There was huge tumour on my windpipe opening and a hole was discovered, which was as small as the tip of a pin. The surgeon performed a tracheotomy in the first instance so that I could breathe and then performed a total laryngectomy with the partial removal of my thyroid gland and another 56 nodes together with the muscle of my neck.

I was discharged after 1 week and then I had 60 RT shots and, in less than 3 months, I was back to work. I was then advised to use an Electrolarynx, which I got used to in about 2 weeks.

Since December 1997, I have been using a Sevox Inton/digital Electrolarynx to communicate in person, over the phone and in public forums. I lead a fully independent, active life including all my global business travel.

A blessing

To me this robotic voice is like a blessing in disguise. It has given me a unique and vibrant identity and I have never needed to announce my name when I talk to anyone for a second time. As regards my experience pre and post cancer surgery in 1997, when the cancer was diagnosed and the Doctor said my voice box was to be removed, my answer was very simple: “I know I am at the right place, so please do whatever is required to be done.” Since then, I have never remembered I had cancer.

A motivation

Ten years after my cancer surgery, I started motivating cancer patients in hospitals, spreading cancer awareness in corporate industries especially during World Cancer day and No Tobacco day. For the last six months, I have been visiting cancer hospitals on a regular basis to meet OPD and IPD cancer patients and help them fight cancer and lead independent active lives.

I am also actively connected with the Memorial Sloane Kattering Cancer Centre, NY, USA and I attend their webinars.

Read more about me

During the month of July 2016, a coffee table book, ‘10/10 Immersive Narratives of 10 Cancer Survivors’, was launched describing the real life stories of 10 cancer survivors under the head and neck category, who have lived more than 10 years of whom I am one of those lucky ones. You will find my real life story as a cancer warrior in the first chapter, under the heading ‘I am going to stay’.

During my journey of 19 years as cancer survivor, I have been committed to helping heal, protect and comfort cancer patients and caregivers.