“I Will Not Be Silenced!”
As a former QVC host and now a talk-radio host at WGMD in Rehoboth Beach, DE, Steve Bryant talks for a living, doing parodies of songs and character voices. He never smoked or used tobacco products because they irritated his throat. But in the summer of 2010, he developed a mysterious swelling in his neck and a sore throat that wouldn’t go away. When his doctor diagnosed him with squamous cell carcinoma of the throat (meaning the cancer started in the cells that line the mouth and upper part of the throat), he faced the heartbreaking possibility that he could lose his voice.
“My doctor said that radiation and possibly chemotherapy could damage my vocal cords,” says Steve, 60, who broadcasts his radio show from Nashville. “But the cancer wasn’t even near my vocal cords—it was on the left side of my throat. So I started researching everything I could about the disease.”
In search of a second opinion, Steve traveled to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, where doctors reconfirmed his diagnosis but changed his treatment plan. They recommended surgery to remove the tumor, plus a different type of chemotherapy and possibly radiation.
After giving it some thought, Steve decided to go public with his disease, announcing his diagnosis on his show. “I’ve always been honest with my listeners about what’s going on in my life,” he says. Unfortunately, the announcement put a damper on his career. “The radio show’s ratings were good and a syndicator was interested, but as soon as I went public, everyone stopped returning my calls,” he says. “People would have to invest a lot of money in promoting my show, and they were leery of working with a host who might lose his voice—or die.”
Laughing through treatment
Steve’s fans, on the other hand, were very supportive. They called and wrote to tell him how much they appreciated his dedication to the show, which he hosted even while undergoing three rounds of chemotherapy.
Steve used his show to cope with his diagnosis and treatment. “I made fun of how I looked, even saying that I resembled a James Bond/Austin Powers villain because I had lost my hair, including my goatee, and looked like a cross between Goldfinger and Dr. Evil,” he says. Listeners who had cancer called and told Steve they were comforted by the fact that he could laugh about his treatment.
“Each day is a gift”
Steve recently had surgery to “mop up” any remaining cancer cells, and it turned out there were none. “I’m glad I opted against the radiation, because it would probably have destroyed my voice.” The thought of never being able to work again is unacceptable, he says.
Steve continues to host his show, which has caught the eye of new stations and syndicators. “I’m honest with them about the disease,” he says. He has decided that if he does eventually lose his voice, he can fall back on writing. He has written four books, and his fifth title, Another Damn Guest—a humorous look at the hundreds of celebrity guests he worked with at QVC—is due out this winter.
If there’s one thing that’s changed about Steve since his diagnosis, it’s his use of time. “Each day is a gift,” he says. “I’m writing another book, as well as some songs. If I hadn’t had cancer, I wouldn’t be so driven.”