Apr 26, 2010

Cancer-free Lisa Ray ready for new challenge

Canadian actress Lisa Ray has emerged triumphant from her battle with multiple myeloma and says she is now cancer-free.

Ray, star of Bollywood/Hollywood, Water and Cooking with Stella, is sporting a new short hairstyle and a new attitude after her ordeal.

Canadian Bollywood actress Lisa Ray poses in the Hollywood area of Los Angeles. Ten months after being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, Ray says she is cancer free. (Gus Ruelas/Reuters)

"I've realized that now when I re-engage with life, it's not that I have to do anything differently, it's just the quality of the life that I live," she said Monday in an interview with CBC News.

"It's about slowing down, tuning in, not trying to override the signals that I'm getting."

Ray says she first noticed that her energy levels were flagging last year when she was doing yoga.

The Toronto-born actress says she was so caught up in her life — modelling and hosting in India and acting in Canada, that she didn't listen to her own body.

Multiple myeloma is an aggressive form of cancer that attacks the bone and can be fatal.

After stem-cell treatment at Toronto's Princess Margaret Hospital that ended this January, Ray was declared cancer-free.

Regular blood tests

"It's not a new treatment — stem cell treatment has been around for about 15 years," she said. "But due to research and recent innovations, there are more applications for the therapy."

As with any cancer, she has to "be vigilant" and return for regular blood tests to make sure the disease has not returned.

She shared her cancer journey on her blog and says the outpouring of support she received from readers — and particularly from other cancer survivors — helped her with the struggle.

"If you don't ask for support, you won't get it," she said. "It opened my eyes to the preciousness of community."

Of particular help was Sindi Hawkins, the former B.C. Minister of Health Planning who waged her own very public battle with leukemia.

Ray said she admires the work Hawkins has done to raise money for cancer research and hopes to play a role herself in raising awareness about some aspects of the disease.

Ray took part in a recent documentary, One a Minute, which gathered experiences of other actresses with cancer.

Keen to act again

She's also mulling ways to bring the lessons she's learned about the process of healing to the public, possibly with work behind the camera. She says she has been travelling in India and working on her spiritual life since January as she rebuilds her energy — which can take three to six months after a stem cell treatment.

It's a year since she's acted, and she's also keen to relaunch her acting career, keeping in mind her desire to pace herself.

"It's a challenge every day," she said. "Our society here is geared to achievement — not to say that achievement only follows from busyness and action. It is simply your approach and the quality with which you do things. A lot of the work is with ourselves."

Her dream project would be a film about Noor Inayat Khan, who like Ray is of mixed Indian and European heritage. Khan was a spy in Paris during the Second World War who was executed by the Germans.

Ray is also writing about her experiences and has a publisher lined up in India, though she won't say if her book will be a memoir or take another form.

(Source: CBC News)

(Photo: Gus Ruelas / Reuters)

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