Cancer survivor Rene Foreman (right) with her daughter, Michelle. (Photo: StoryCorps)
Cancer survivor Rene Foreman (right) with her daughter, Michelle. (Photo: StoryCorps)

As I got in my car to go work this morning, I switched on NPR. Instead of the predictable sounds of host/reporter/interviewee, I was confused by what sounded like a computer talking.

Then I was riveted.

What I was hearing was the story of Rene Foreman, an Orange County woman, who had lost her voice box to cancer in 1999. Foreman’s piece is part of the StoryCorps project. As NPR reports, Rene now uses an electrolarynx. It’s a small device that Foreman holds against her throat to produce her voice, electronically.

Yes, initially she sounds something like a creature from Star Wars, but right away, I got past the strangeness. Foreman says she’s happier without her voice now than she was with her voice. She says, “it’s a small price to pay for being alive.” In addition, she enjoys the distinction that her unusual “voice” provides:

“People are really very kind, once they realize what the situation is,” she says. “I may go into a restaurant once, and if I go back there a year later, and it’s the same woman at the front desk, she’ll say, ‘Where have you been? We haven’t seen you for a while.’ So, I feel like a movie star.”

You have to listen to this remarkable woman speak to get the full impact of her story. The NPR feature is not even three minutes long. I guarantee if you hear five seconds of Foreman talking, you’ll be hooked.

A New Voice for A Cancer Patient 20 January,2012Lisa Aliferis


Lisa Aliferis

Lisa Aliferis is the founding editor of KQED’s State of Health blog. Since 2011, she’s been writing and editing stories for the site. Before taking up blogging, she toiled for many years (more than we can count) producing health stories for television, including Dateline NBC and San Francisco’s CBS affiliate, KPIX-TV. She also wrote up a handy guide to the Affordable Care Act, especially for Californians. Her work has been honored for many awards. Most recently she was a finalist for “Best Topical Reporting” from the Online News Association. You can follow her on Twitter: @laliferis

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