Greenville man without voicebox wins singing contest

John Ready

Nothing keeps U.C. Davis Health patient John Ready of Greenville from singing. In fact, he just won a karaoke contest after hitting high notes without any vocal cords.

Ready (pronounced “reedy”) had his voicebox (larynx) removed more than 20 years ago because of throat cancer. But that hasn’t slowed down the retired sales and marketing specialist. He’s frequently on the road, helping inspire others who’ve faced throat cancer and the removal of their larynx.

Ready speaks at conferences, colleges and other venues. He lives as normal of a life as possible, riding motorcycles around his home in Plumas County and running Bay-to-Breakers each year in the Bay Area.

“I want to demonstrate to people, as terrible as it seems, that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” says Ready, who says he frequently takes calls from people worried about living without their vocal cords.

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U.C. Davis Health otolaryngologist Peter Belafsky, who specializes in throat and swallowing disorders, points to technological advances and a tiny voice prosthesis that have given Ready as normal a life as possible. He says Ready has shattered the stigma of cancer survivors who’ve had a laryngectomy and now must breathe through a tube at the base of his neck.

At a recent conference for throat specialists in Las Vegas, Belafsky convinced Ready to join in an annual singing competition, one that this year wowed the attendees. Ready got his “voice” into shape by doing what people everywhere do: sing along to the music in their cars.

Belafsky believes Ready is a role model for others who have had throat cancer and are struggling with its physical impacts.

“It’s amazing, because we now are realizing a world where people without legs can win races, and people without vocal cords can be singing champions,” said Belafsky in an interview with a local Sacramento news station.

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And that’s something John Ready could sing about!