Photo Credit: Elly Brown
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Elly Brown is an entertainer from Las Vegas Nevada, and ten months ago a tumor returned on the back of her tongue for the second time--changing her life dramatically. Before Elly's second surgery and subsequent cancer treatment, she worked as a singer in an a cappella group called The Sound Collage, took gigs as an on-camera host in a variety of content, and had her second feature film (as a lead actress) released in 2018. After Elly's surgery, in spite of losing nearly half of her tongue (rebuilt with tissue and bone from her leg), she began making content on YouTube and Facebook as an oral cancer survivor--helping people cope with life after illness, physical challenges, and reshaping our mindsets.
What can your voice do?
My voice certainly doesn't sound as smooth and melodic as it once did--however, I've found this new voice to be even more powerful as a tool for connecting other survivors looking for a path to wholeness after loss. I am so grateful and happy for this new, "improved" voice! Impediments and all.
What is your area or field that you're using your voice in and how did you get into it?
I began in music and theatre at a very young age, continued on to get my degree in Theatre, and have always worked as an entertainer--either gigging as a singer, or a host, or an actor. My fiance is a social media influencer, and gave me a job editing videos for him after my surgery. In a way, that was the best training possible for beginning my own channel as a cancer survivor. I still work for him, but I continue to create my own content as well, with the goal of providing a safe space for survivors to connect with one another, feel hope, and find inspiration. I want them to live their best lives possible in spite of major life changes.
Did you have a moment when you realized that you could use your voice to make a difference in that field?
Yes--thanks to my fiance. Even though I hadn't spoken on camera at all since my surgery, he kept pressing me to try it (even if it was just to put a one-minute outro tag on one of his viral videos). One day I threw caution to the wind and just did it. I was surprised to find that it was well-received, and got a good response. Once I realized that listening to my voice seemed to actually help people instead of turning them away, I got braver and braver and began creating content just for the audience that seemed to connect to it. Then one day I felt like singing, so I posted a camera test that I made when I was singing to my dog. The response was unbelievable, and I realized that hiding my voice was a huge disservice to the other people suffering from Head and Neck cancer. And I never wanted to hide again, if it meant that others would be brave enough to use their voices again as well.
What keeps you up at night?
People suffering from self-consciousness. People hiding their light under a basket, because they don't even understand how beautiful they are. The thought that tragedy blinds some folks to the truly great things all around us.
What gives you hope?
Someone like Amy Purdy, the paralympic medalist who turned the worst thing that ever happened to her into the most beautiful, magical, BEST life she could possibly live. Smashing all expectations and breaking every glass ceiling, surprising everyone with her drive and her ability after losing her legs. That kind of major reinvention is a marvelous source of hope.
By knowing what your voice can do in this field, what’s the impact you hope to have?
I want to show people that a beautiful life exists after loss. I'd like to teach people how to identify negative thought patterns and rewrite the way they think about obstacles and challenges. I want to provide ideas and resources for healing not just our bodies, but our minds. And finally, I'd like people to connect to each other through this work, not just to me. Finding our community--whether that's head and neck survivors, cancer survivors in general, or anyone who has suffered a major loss--that is the greatest medicine we can find.
Any words to encourage others to use their voice in this world?
So many people hide their voices because of they are "different". But the funny thing is, those are the voices that can be the most powerful. Use your voice proudly; unabashedly. I promise that someone else, somewhere, NEEDS to hear it and is waiting for it.
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