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Voice Actor Rob Paulsen Shares His Oral Cancer Story

Photo: Courtesy of Lesley Bohm

The accomplished voice actor is a throat cancer survivor who encourages others to get regular dental and health screenings.

Paulsen voiced the characters Yakko and Pinky on the hit ‘90s animated series “Animaniacs,” which was recently rebooted on Hulu. 

About five years ago, Paulsen noticed a knot on the left side of his neck, but he ignored it for several months as he didn’t have any other symptoms. He mentioned it to his primary care doctor during a routine appointment. The doctor referred him to an ear, nose, and throat specialist who ordered tests and diagnosed Paulsen with Stage 3 metastatic squamous cell carcinoma.

Paulsen then underwent seven weeks of daily radiation treatments, concurrent with weekly four-hour long chemo treatments. His cancer was cured but he now has lasting side effects from treatment.

“Rob 2.0 is different,” he said, explaining food doesn’t taste the same and he’s always very thirsty.

Early detection

Over 65,000 men and women in the United States will be diagnosed with head and neck cancers this year.

“The good news is that it’s very treatable,” said Paulsen, who’s an ambassador for the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance.

He wants people to know that early detection can mean better chances of survival. A dentist can detect oral cancers by looking inside a patient’s mouth, and feeling their neck and shoulders.

Platinum lining

Like the famous shows for which he voices characters, Paulsen’s career is getting a reboot, too. 

Despite his cancer treatments, Paulsen’s voice didn’t change and he can still do his famous character voices, like Raphael and Donatello from “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”

“My story is not a silver lining,” he said. ”To me, my cancer experience is a platinum lining because I can do my job.”

Paulsen says his story has a, “gloriously happy ending, that in some ways is just the beginning.”

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