Hello! Magazine – ‘Cancer Graduate’ Lisa Ray shares her journey

Discovered on Holiday as a teenager in India, and thrust into the international spotlight as a model and actress, Toronto-born Lisa Ray has embraced fate and worked hard to fulful her potential. It has reaped rewards: the stunning star has made a name for herself in both Bollywood – her dad is Bengali and her mother Polish – and North America, with films such as Deepa Mehta’s Water.

But little did Lisa know, her biggest challenge would come in 2009, when she was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, an incurable form of blood cancer. Now in remission – after rounds of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant – the spirited 39-year-old has partnered with Myeloma Canada to spread the word about breakthrough treatment options and access to care. Here, the down-to-earth beauty sits down with Hello! at Toronto’s Metropolitan Hotel for a frank talk about life and love after cancer.

Hello! (HM): Congratulations! You’ve been in remission for a year and look great. How are you feeling?

Lisa Ray (LR): I’m grateful to be sitting here. I consider myself to be a “cancer graduate”, not a cancer survivor. I am renting that term from a very dear friend who’s also gone through cancer. You come out of this with a lot more wisdom and it’s up to you to apply it.

HM: Can you give us an example of how cancer changed you?

LR: It has brought out my inner accountant. I love what I do, but when I couldn’t do it, I had to completely reset my life. I couldn’t go and spend 14-hour days on the set. What do I have to fall back on? It made me tap into a completely different part of myself, made me rethink my investments… I’ve discovered that I have an MBA embedded in me.

HM: After your diagnosis, you decided to shave your head before you lost your hair. Why?

LR: I was getting tired of my hair anyway! [Laughs] It was a way of taking back control. I actually got my partner at the time – he was in the military – to bring in his professional clippers and we had a little party. I still remember how liberating it felt.

HM: You mention your “partner at the time.” Are you dating anyone these days?

LR: Right now, I’m in between.

HM: What do you look for in your special someone?

LR: Given what I’ve been through, you just really want someone you can laugh and relax with. I say I’m “in between,” but I have a few people who are really significant. I’m kind of without labels in my life right now and I’m cool with that. You care and you love. It’s free-flow. Bring it on.

HM: You host the series Bollywood Best Top Ten on Omni Television and you’re writing a book. What’s next?

LR: What I would like to do now is cut back on my travelling and just stay in Canada. This is the right place to be right now to support my healing. Toronto is base camp and Nelson [B.C.] is the antidote to big-city living. I need a bit of both right now.

HM: You’ve been busy with public engagements. Tell us what it was like to host Queen Elizabeth at a film studio tour in Toronto last year.

LR: It was fabulous! I sat next to Prince Philip, and he was a delight – totally warm, funny and irreverent. [We talked] a little bit about everything. I had just bought my place in Nelson, and I mentioned it. He said, “I think I’ve been there.” And I said, “Really?” And he said, “Darling, I’ve been everywhere.”

(Report: Carli Whitwell)

Lisa Ray’s ‘most heartfelt role’

She’s best known as the ethereal beauty of Oscar-nominated Water. Or the femme fatale in the movie hit Bollywood Hollywood.

But these days Lisa Ray is using her star power for something far more personal and important.

The actress-model from Toronto was in Halifax on Thursday to shine the spotlight on a rare form of cancer that took her hair, her strength and almost her life.

“It’s my most heartfelt role to date,” says the performer, her once long locks replaced by a short curly bob, her enthusiasm for making a difference spilling over.

The 39-year-old performer first learned she had multiple myeloma in July 2009.

She’d been extremely fatigued before the diagnosis and friends convinced her to go for blood tests.

What her doctor found — a red blood cell count so low she needed immediate transfusions — was a shock.

So was the subsequent diagnosis: incurable blood cancer of the bone marrow that’s usually fatal.

“I’d never heard of it,” says the emerald-eyed beauty.

She’d been filming so much in Canada and India she’d put her tiredness down to work and jet lag.

“You never think it’s going to happen to you.”

And she didn’t even know what “it” was.

But Ray, now in remission, hopes her fame helps shine a light on this little-known cancer that affects about 6,000 Canadians at any one time and made her re-evaluate what’s really important in life.

That includes shedding what she calls the “pathology of perfection in our society.”

Ray’s often been held up as one of the epitomes of physical perfection. But when steroids bloated her body and food cravings made her put on weight and her long, straight hair fell out, she had to confront the basis of her own self-worth.

“I had to come face-to-face with perceptions of myself,” she says. “You know, ‘(What) is my own self esteem wrapped up in?’ “

She had a bit of an epiphany in September 2009 while walking the red carpet at the Toronto Film Festival, where she first revealed her diagnosis.

“I was 40 pounds overweight and in a strange way, because I’d made my peace with it, I was less self-conscious than I’d ever been previous. There I was bloated and fat and transformed and yet I thought you know what? There’s nothing taboo about what I’m going through. I’m fighting for my life . . . and I’m grateful for every moment now, every step that I can take. Why shouldn’t I celebrate that?”

While steroids, chemotherapy and a subsequent stem cell transplant put Ray in remission, she knows there’s a “good chance” the cancer will come back.

But she stresses that science has made great strides in treatment. And she hopes by talking about the disease she can bring more awareness and research funding to the cause.

She also wants to ensure treatment options are equally available for everyone across Canada. Coverage, she says, varies from province to province.

But for now, Ray’s just happy to be alive. And she’s appreciating all the moments of living.

“I think for me a big lesson . . . has been not to push myself so much, to like sit back. It’s OK sometimes to just be. You don’t have to be doing all the time. . . .

“I just want to spend some time healing, doing a little bit of nothing” and thinking “how do I squeeze the maximum amount of joy out of this day?”

For more information go to www.myelomacanada.ca.

(Photo: Holly Dunn / Myeloma Canada)

Source: Chronicle Herald / Lois Legge

http://thechronicleherald.ca/ArtsLife/1236068.html

Actress stumps for rare cancer

Lisa Ray, internationally known model, actress and star of the Oscar-nominated film Water, is used to playing different roles. What wasn’t prepared for was fighting for her life.

At only 37 years old, Ray was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a rare and incurable cancer of the bone marrow. She credits the latest breakthroughs in treatment as the reason she’s here today.

“I want to ensure that other patients have the right access to the right treatment at the right time,” said Ray.

Ray has partnered with Myeloma Canada to help raise awareness with their Make Myeloma Matter tour across five Canadian cities.

Ray says this tour is her way of giving back. She hopes to use her platform to give people more information about the disease that will empower them to live longer, more productive lives.

“We really need that extra nudge to convert something that’s fatal into something that is manageable,” said Ray.

Myeloma Facts:

  • Aldo Del Col, executive director of Myeloma Canada, says people are generally diagnosed with myeloma in their mid-60s.
  • Col said myeloma is very rare and makes up about 1.5 per cent of all types of cancer.
  • For more information on Myeloma Canada, visit myelomacanada.ca.

(Source: Metro Vancouver / Meagan Gill – http://www.metronews.ca/vancouver/local/article/816687–actress-stumps-for-rare-cancer )

(Photo: Meagan Gill / Metro)

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INTERVIEWS

CTV – The Marilyn Denis Show (1/2)

CTV – The Marilyn Denis Show (2/2)

NDTV – Lisa’s Ray of Hope (1/2)

NDTV – Lisa’s Ray of Hope (2/2)

Canada AM with Seamus O’Regan

The Hour – Full Interview

CNN IBN – The Yellow Warrior

Speakers.ca Spotlight

Global Toronto – Announcing Cancer

CBC News with Carol MacNeil

Etalk Canada – Speaking to Ben Mulroney

CBC – Connect with Mark Kelley

ET Canada

Etalk Canada – IFFLA

Stem Cell City Promo

ET Canada – Moksha Yoga Brampton

ETalk Canada – The Wolrd Unseen (1/2)

ETalk Canada – The Wolrd Unseen (2/2)

That’s Fit – Battling Incurable Cancer

IIFA Green Carpet

The Morning Show – Top Chef Canada

TRAILERS

The World Unseen

Water

Bollywood Hollywood

Cooking With Stella

All Hat

A Stone’s Throw

BEHIND THE SCENES

Rado – Unlimited Spirit Shoot

Shoot for Prevention magazine

The Man magazine – Cover shoot

Anokhi Magazine Shoot

City Life Photoshoot

Etalk Canada – More Magazine shoot

MAKE MYELOMA MATTER

Speakers.ca Spotlight

Etalk Canada – Speaking to Ben Mulroney

CBC – Connect with Mark Kelley

Stem Cell City Promo

That’s Fit – Battling Incurable Cancer

Shoot for Prevention magazine

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