Singer credits U-M team for keeping his voice beautiful, after two cancer diagnoses

October 21, 2015  //  FOUND IN: Our Employees

After being diagnosed with cancers of the palate and thyroid one after another, professional singer Jerry Garcia knew he was going to have to risk his career in order to save his health and family life.

With surgery recommended for both tumors, Garcia knew at every turn that he might have to take his musical ministry in another direction if surgical complications made him no longer able to sing in the caliber he’d built a career on. Instead, Jerry credits the quality of his recent album – he calls it the best he’s ever sung – to the surgeries and experts he saw at the U-M Health System.

“I came out of this unscathed with no vocal cord damage whatsoever,” Garcia said. “It’s the power of a strong positive attitude.”

‘I had a lot of faith’

Garcia had two outpatient surgeries on his palate many years ago, thinking the cancer was gone, but recently felt like something might be wrong. Garcia came to U-M for a second opinion, and head and neck surgeon Kelly Malloy, M.D., found more cancer in the upper left part of the roof of his mouth.

“When Dr. Malloy got ahold of me, she did it right!” Garcia said. “I had a lot of faith going into all of this that everything was going to be OK. My main concern was I just wanted to continue to be my kids’ dad and my wife’s husband.”

The process was long, though, and at times stressful.

“This is someone whose livelihood depends on his ability to professionally use his voice,” Malloy said. “Jerry had concerns about maintaining his teeth, maintaining his palate and getting good closure between the nose and the mouth.”

Read more about Jerry’s experience, including how he now has a synthetic palate in his mouth: