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Hank Davis Finds His Voice Again

Hank Davis Finds His Voice Again

Hank Davis has a voice to reckon with.

Tuesday nights you can find him performing at Luther’s Table, a casual coffeehouse in Renton that hosts open-mic nights. An adolescent of the 1960s, Hank has been a folk musician since he was in middle school. Folk revival inspirations include Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul and Mary, Joni Mitchell and Paul Simon. Hank is a poet, musician, writer and lover of the arts. But Hank is also a survivor. He has endured prostate cancer and heart surgery.

So when a reoccurring cough lasted through the fall and winter of 2014, Hank knew he needed to seek help. And he was glad he did.

Doctors found a cancerous tumor at the base of his tongue.

“Why mess with my voice too?” Hank remembered. “Well, trouble loves company.”

His surgeon talked him out of surgery and pointed him in the direction of proton therapy. In April and May of 2015, Dr. Upendra Parvathaneni, Radiation Oncologist at SCCA Proton Therapy Center, and Dr. Kinsey McCormick, Medical Oncologist at Northwest Hospital, treated him with six weeks of proton radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

The proton therapy radiation was able to focus precisely on Hank’s tumor. Doctors were able to target the cancerous tissue without impacting his vocal chords. Nurses worked with Hank to manage his discomfort, primarily from the mesh mask that held him in place. A good distraction for Hank was taking on the role of D.J. during his half-hour procedures. His nurses enjoyed his collection of folk, jazz, and world music.

During the six weeks of treatment, Hank’s tumor shrunk and ultimately dissolved.

Reflecting on his experience with cancer, it was the sense of community that Hank found the most astonishing. In particular, a gentleman who gave him rides home after treatments.

“It’s humbling and interesting to accept help from others, those who have been through it first-hand,” Hank said. “They know what you’re feeling – emotionally and physically. You can make a connection, exchange notes and support each other. It was so nice to meet these remarkable people.”

Today, Hank calls Burien home. When he’s not freelancing, writing poetry or performing, he enjoys his life in South Seattle. Both of his sons followed in his footsteps and teach English overseas. One in the Middle East, the other in Shanghai. His daughter lives nearby and he hopes to become his grandkids' babysitter someday. 

“I have been given some extra time. So while my hands still know their way around an acoustic guitar, I’m back writing new songs,” Hank reflected with a smile. “My heart struggled, but it still beats. My vocal range has dropped one note, which makes me an honest baritone. But cancer couldn’t steal my voice.”