How Joy West Regained Her Voice

October 6, 2023

Joy West, with cameraJoy West loves to talk, but she was feeling hoarse. In January 2020, she found herself in front of the GW Hospital oral cancer screening booth at the NBC 4 Expo health fair.

“I asked the nurse there if it was normal to be hoarse for about four months,” West recalls. “She said it wasn’t. I made an appointment and within two weeks I was meeting with Dr. Goodman.”

Joseph Goodman, MD, FACS, is a board-certified otolaryngologist and head and neck surgeon at GW Hospital. Through an endoscopy, he determined that West had stage 3 cancer in her larynx.

“Being a former smoker, I just blinked and said, ‘So much for the ride with the Marlboro man,’ ” West quips. “I just wanted to know if he could help me.”

Dr. Goodman was confident that he could help with chemotherapy and radiation, and so West began her battle to overcome laryngeal, or throat, cancer.

The Care She Needed

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West chose to go ahead with treatment at GW Cancer Center because GW Hospital is an academic, teaching institution. “We have choices in hospitals here in D.C. and I wanted someone who’s on the front lines like GW,” she explains.

In all, West underwent three chemo treatments and seven weeks of radiation. She was very impressed with everyone she encountered at the hospital, from the receptionists to the technicians, nurses and doctors who cared for her. When they learned she is a jazz lover, they had the music waiting for her during treatments.

“They got to know me,” West says. “I am grateful to my whole medical team. I am alive thanks to them.”

Speaking Out

The cancer treatment was successful, if at times grueling. One of the most difficult parts of the process for West was losing her voice for 10 weeks. “But now two years later, I’m cancer-free and I have a strong voice,” she says.

In fact, West wrote a book about her cancer battle, 35 Days: Dancing in the Glow of the Light, and she hopes it will inspire others who are fighting. “My life has changed because I see how fragile life is,” West says. “I have a different level of respect for medicine and science. It has changed me.”

Hear Joy West’s story the way it was meant to be told — in her voice >