| Susmita Saurav, IOP Correspondent - 30 Jul 2021

Shrenik Shah is a Vocal cord Cancer Winner. Here's the inspiriting story of his grand comeback after a great setback!


The inimitable journey of Mr. Shrenik Shah can only inspire awe and a great deal of admiration at his inexhaustible spirit of survival and conquest. His life has been an unprecedented one, and he has proved himself as the paradigm of perseverance rarely seen in humans.
Aided by an Electrolarynx – his robotic voice has now become synonymous with his very name, and he dons this device with a panache extraordinaire.

Shrenik was diagnosed in his 24th year with T4aNOMO, stage IVA (Ca-Larynx). He underwent Laryngectomee (surgical removal of larynx) and went on to rewire his differently abled identity into what he jovially terms as “Life 2.0” – a new and thoroughly inspirational life. 

Having his roots in Ahmadabad, India, presently Mr. Shrenik is not only a Counselor, global patient leader & mentor, but also a captivating Inspirational speaker! He has published his biography, most aptly titled as “SHAHENSHAH”.

He likes to dichotomize his life experience into 2 parts - Life1.0 was his journey before being diagnosed with cancer. The later life - “Life 2.0”- began right in the womb of his life’s winter, where he gradually learned that there was indeed an invincible summer right inside the core of his being.

Here’s a brief insight into the life odyssey of this phenomenal man of courage...

As Shrenik outlines his Life 1.0, he is the youngest in his family with 2 sisters & a brother. After graduating in organic chemistry in 1972, he joined a family business of producing colors for dyeing applications on textile, leather, paper, etc. He worked as a key administrator for 13 years till 1985 & then entered into the Exports business of colors. He has trotted the globe as an astute marketeer and has been to 37 countries, accomplishing over 200 overseas trips alone during the period 1986 to 1996.

Furthermore, he recounts his next phase of life as Life 2.0, as this was the period when his life was destined for a drastic change. In the face of great adversity, life gives a man two choices – either to give up or to take on the mantle and carve out a completely new life out of it. Mr. Shrenik’s indomitable willpower nudged him to take complete charge of himself and rise up from the ashes like a phoenix!

He could speak normally till the first half of 1997. But then his voice started to change. It went from hoarseness to whispering. Despite undergoing clinical examinations for two times, diagnosis did not reveal any abnormality. Gradually, he started losing weight and encountered acute breathlessness. He was unable to lay flat on bed & had to sleep in a slanting posture.
At the age of 44, during the mid-August of 1997, theconditions became alarming when he started bleeding while coughing. He had to visit a physician, who advised him to visit Dr. Kaustubh Patel, MS. M. Ch. a young head & neck cancer surgeon. The doctor suspected cancer of the vocal cord & urgently advised for a laryngoscopy. A tumor was discovered over the vocal cord that was blocking the opening of the trachea. The surgeon performed a tracheostomy & a biopsy.

Analysis of the biopsy revealed stage T4aNOMO, IV A- cancer. In a surgery which lasted nearly 9 hours, a massive wide-field total laryngectomy was performed along with partial removal of thyroid gland & 56 nodes.
A week later he was discharged with rice pipe & then after one more week of recovery, 30 rounds of radiotherapy were advised.

He was brave enough to accept the diagnosis. This acceptance was the first and the most important step in his resounding victory over the advanced-stage cancer.

Back then, in 1997, the molding technology of the mask was not as advance as it is at present. It was made from ABS plastic & completed with 5 days a week schedule. The skin around the neck & throat had a completely burnt out appearance, but it slowly regained its normal color.


He began his Life 2.0 towards normalcy by using pen & paper to communicate until December 1997. Then he started practicing speaking with the aid of an electrolarynx.
In those days (i.e. in 1997), the SLP/SLT services were not available & he had to learn to speak with this new device all by himself. After about a week of practicing, a sweet spot was located under his chin from where audible sounds were getting generated.

While speaking in public with his differently enabled voice, he was often taken aback by incidents when people would run away from him as they seemed to be scared of his new machine-enabled sound.
At that time, he was the only earning member of the family. As an Marketing expert in Exports segment ,  Mr. Shrenik had the requisite cognition to accept this mid-life crisis & challenge of rejection. But he continued speaking with his newfound voice, each time with more audacity and greater self-confidence.

Shrenik is deeply grateful for his family, which has been his fulcrum and buttress. His wife Nilam (42), and sons, Maulik (21) & Ankit (19) have been unconditionally supportive, and so has been his cancer surgeon.
For the five years after surgery, he stayed away from closed public places like theaters, auditoriums, restaurants & avoided passive smoking & kept visiting his surgeon regularly for follow-ups.
He resumed his international business travels alone and unchaperoned, while meeting customers, and speaking to them over the phone. This way he reconfigured the managing of his business and successfully resurrected it.

His "Will to Win" approach was always consistently supported by a dedicated team of doctors who left no stone unturned to aid his fight against the disease.

Mr. Shrenik Shah buoyantly chuckles as he says -  "The best advantage, of my differently enabled voice, is, the moment, I start speaking over the phone, I am not required to announce my name, Shrenik Shah which is my unique identity & asset for a lifetime.”

In 2011, after almost a decade of managing his business, Shrenik began counseling the Head & Neck Cancer patients in private hospitals for 3 days a week. This made him gain a lot of publicity by the word of mouth. His patients, caregivers started reaching out through various social media platforms.Till date, he has counseled over 30,000 patients.
During his book launch event, he was straightaway invited to address a huge audience in auditorium of more than 500 people, comprising especially medical professionals & super specialists. Eversince he experienced an added momentum and thrust to his talk-shows, whether online or in propria persona.

His relentless pursuit to touch the hearts of millions of people from all walks of life through his unique and power-packed Motivational Talk, serves as a fuel to drive his vital life energies.

Shrenik claims that in the aftermath of his victory against Cancer, he has learned a lot from none other than the “University of experience & living”! In other words, his own life has been his message as well as his guru.

His life taught him the virtues of Acceptance, Courage, Confidence, Troubleshooting & he mastered the art of living in the moment.

 “I express deep gratitude to one & all who were, are & will be part of my Cancer journey.
I must say, caregivers are the backbone & without them, the journey is incomplete.” - says Mr. Shah.

Shrenik's life odyssey was featured in a coffee table book titled ‘10/10 Immersive Narratives of 10 Cancer Winners’ (by Ahmedabad Cancer Foundation) in July 2016, in the very first chapter, under the heading – "I AM HERE TO STAY".

His gratefulness has no bounds, as he says every time - “I am grateful to God for giving me a bonus life 2.0. I spend every moment of life without any regret and never seeking sympathy.”

Shrenik is well-connected with National & International Oncologists, Presidents of IFHNOS, USA & FHNOS, India, President of UICC, Geneva & President of Asian Society of Head & Neck Oncology & more than 30k Cancer patients & caregivers of many Cancer support groups. He feels immensely privileged to guide and motivate.

In the role of a global patient leader & motivational speaker, he has given numerous professional live presentations with slides, in India & abroad covering and emphasizing QOL after cancer.

Mr. Shrenik Shah has delivered extensive live talk shows and has built a commendable image within the oncology circuit worldwide. He has a huge social media presence across all popular key platforms.
Not only that, but he has accomplished more than100 live & virtual talk shows during pandemic & 3 video recordings & 6 back to back live interviews with one on TV news channel for World Cancer Day 4th February 2021 & received grand appreciations from Union of International Cancer Control, Geneva.
In October 2020, he conceptualized & launched Facebook 1:1 exclusive interview & talk shows e-health series, by inviting distinguished medical professionals to bridge the gap between patients & Doctors for early diagnosis, timely treatments & saving precious lives. He has completed 18 episodes to date with huge viewership & many more episodes are scheduled to be aired.

Mr. Shrenik Shah is now part of one of the team members with a Distinct voice among 70 global influencers of the "International Institute of Influencers" platform.  

Mr. Shrenik Shah has recently been Nominated for :Wegohealth2021 "Patient leader hero" award & also for more than 10 other categories. He has gained nominations in the following list of categories: 

1. Advocating for Another, 2. Best in Show: Blog, 3. Best in Show: Community, 4. Best in Show: Facebook, 5. Best in Show: Instagram, 6. Best in Show: YouTube, 7. Best Kept Secret, 8. Best Team Performance, 9. Healthcare Collaborator, 10. Hilarious Patient Leader, 11.  Lifetime Achievement, 12. Patient Leader Hero, 13. Rookie of the Year

(“WEGO Health Activist Awards,” the WEGO Health Awards embody the mission of WEGO Health - to empower Patient Leaders. WEGO Health, Boston, USA, are the world’s largest network of Patient Leaders, working across virtually all health conditions and topics.)


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