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Friday, September 17, 2021

Never Say Never

Actress Lisa Ray has certainly come a long way since her battle against cancer. The hazel- eyed beauty talks to Screen about her struggle, overcoming fears and why she thinks cancer awareness is still lagging in rural India

Written by Priya Adivarekar | Mumbai |
Updated: September 12, 2014 1:00:17 am
Lisa Ray Lisa Ray

Q. 1 What is that one important thing that your struggle during difficult times taught you?

That everything in life is an ‘inside job’. Everyone has all the resources you need inside yourself to make your life extraordinary, whether its getting through a major health problem or redefining success for yourself. Don’t give away your power. We are all born so incredibly powerful.

Q. 2 Your journey has inspired many. But who was your biggest source of strength and inspiration during the struggle.

My mother, who passed away just before I was diagnosed. She was the most remarkably strong and compassionate woman I have ever known. She was paralysed due to a car accident which my family was involved in, which ironically propelled me to begin my career in India. And she lived for myself and my father— even though her physical life had become so challenging. I believe her spirit was with me, and my father whose unconditional love transcends even regular parental love. The outpouring of prayers and support I received from India and around the world after I publicly announced my diagnosis, 40 pounds plumper on steroids, from the red carpet at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Q. 3 Do you think the struggle and fight has changed your personality?

Without a doubt. It was an instant dose of growth and self-development. I don’t sweat at the small stuff anymore. I have greater clarity than ever before about what I want to do. And I don’t look for outside validation— I am content with who I am today.

Q. 4 Any takeaways from that tough phase?

Of course. I believe that always, everyday we should have something to look forward to. So look forward, drop the past and don’t believe you are a victim. Also, I understood that it’s important to surround yourself with positive, loving people. And yes, focus on what you can do, as opposed to what you can’t. See opportunity instead of obstacles.

Q. 5 Do you personally believe that cancer awareness, especially in rural India, is still very low?

Absolutely. There is so much work to do around education, preventative measures and even research into cancer treatment in India. Even aside from rural areas, I have heard some shocking stories of urban Indians who are greatly misinformed about cancer. At this point, when cancer is growing to epidemic proportions in India, the priority should be to speak openly and educate all Indians. And my biggest message to everyone is to take control of your own health. Don’t completely rely on your oncologist. Reach out, research and believe you can overcome.

Q. 6 How do you cope with the fear of a relapse?

I don’t dwell on it. I believe every day you have a choice to see life as full of obstacles or opportunities. I focus on the last. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t get a knot in my stomach whenever I get my blood tests done. But it’s part of my new normal life and I believe I am cured.

Q. 7 You also turned blogger during your fight against cancer. Do you think it helped you in putting your thoughts across effectively at a time when you were personally going through a tough time emotionally?

It was a very spontaneous decision. I needed to process what I was going through and I have always been a covert writer. I put it online and it helped me tremendously in connecting with a global community and dispelling any sort of shame about what I was going through. It was a huge turning point not just in my healing but in my life too.

Q. 8 Any plans of reviving the blog again? Maybe as a tool to inspire other survivors and those fighting against cancer?

Yes, there are plans. I am working on it.

Q. 9 Are there any ideas that you have in mind to help the survivors or bring them together to create more awareness?

Awareness and education is the key. I will begin writing in a blog again and I hope to be able to give a lot of public talks. I have been doing this globally for a while. I am working with some key players to organise events and my dream is to begin a cancer research centre in India akin to Dana Farber in the States. I would also love to conduct workshops as well. I have found that nutrition has been a key in my healing as well. I also think that it’s important to speak openly about cancer as an opportunity to test or develop spritiual strength. Most great spiritual traditions in the world started here and it’s ironic that we don’t refer to them more often.

Q. 10 Several survivors look up to you for inspiration and even discuss their problems with you. Any message for them?

The key to success in life lies in embracing the very thing that makes you uncomfortable, finding peace in fear and change. Let us not forget that when you are spiritually very strong, your relationship to death is very different. Having an appetite for inconvenient truths and building aspiration for healing and health and overcoming difficulties in life is important.

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