Emmy-award winning voice actor, author, and singer Rob Paulsen makes his living perched behind a microphone. When he learned he had stage III throat cancer, it was a double blow; however, he refused to let the diagnosis consume him.
“I recall getting the phone call with almost an odd consternation,” explains the 64-year-old Michigan native, who serves as the 2020 spokesperson for the non-profit Head and Neck Cancer Alliance (HNCA). “But at no time did I freak out.”
Facing a tough road
Paulsen’s cancer journey began in 2016, after a doctor inspected a growth on his neck during a routine physical. Paulsen underwent testing and learned he had HPV-attributed stage III squamous cell carcinoma. He faced aggressive cancer treatments, including both chemotherapy and radiation, losing 50 pounds and the ability to taste food in the process.
“During weeks five through seven, I got exhausted,” says Paulsen, who admits to a difficult recovery. “The lowest point was when I literally could not eat or drink. It was pretty brutal. I couldn’t swallow, I was in a lot of pain and had lots of medication.”
Sharing his story
Initially, Paulsen stayed silent about his condition. Today, as the face and voice of HNCA’s Oral, Head, and Neck Cancer Awareness Program, he’s committed to getting the word out. Paulsen encourages those at risk to get screened for oral cancer, and wants people to understand the importance of early detection and prevention through HPV vaccination.
“We may be able to save a lot of young people, not only from getting cancer, but from having to go through such a gnarly treatment.”
A message of hope
“It was my turn to share. You never know when you’ll have the opportunity to be inspirational.”
Paulsen has spent a great deal of time with sick and terminally ill fans during his career. He credits them with giving him perspective as he speaks out about his ordeal.
“We all take some shots while we’re here. Nobody gets out without some dings. But once we’re through the struggle, whatever it is, we’ll be in a position to help others.”Paulsen, who considers himself fully cured, adds, “I am a better person as a result of my cancer experience.”