Lisa Ray, the 47-year old half-Indian-half-Polish model-actor-author who started her modelling career at the age of 16 talks about her fight with cancer, motherhood and her life. In her previous interview with Outlook, Lisa spoke about how she fought cancer. Though she was low on energy, optimism was at its peak. Today, she designs her life according to her own beliefs. Surviving cancer has made her fearless and compassionate.
A mother of a twin through surrogacy, Lisa Ray was never someone who cooed and fussed over babies. But now with her babies in her life, the love in her home has reached a new level. Most of the time, she literally has one foot in India and one foot in Hong Kong where she lives with her family. Says Lisa, “Now I travel and work as I please. I am doing a lot of unconventional roles and public speaking on cancer awareness. I don’t judge my life by goals and today my external factors are a direct reflection of my inner journey.”
Not just a cancer memoir
After she announced about her cancer diagnosis and chronicled her experiences in a blog, The Yellow Diaries, she was approached to write a book by Haper Collins. “I am a lifelong reader. I have always wanted to write. But not necessarily a memoir. However, I did not want to write about my disease in isolation from the rest of my life,” says Lisa. "Close to the Bone" is not a cancer memoir, it’s much more than that. It’s a deeply personal travelogue of insights, learning, triumphs and missteps. She has tried to take the readers on a journey with her through these experiences and themes of her life. “Hopefully the reader will find a lot that is relatable,” adds Lisa.
The cover of Lisa Ray's memoir, "Close To the Bone".
Talking about how she manages to find the time and write a book alongside her acting career, motherhood and now an author, she says, “I honestly don’t over think it.” She delivered her manuscript the day before her babies were born in Tbilisi, Georgia. But she has been editing throughout their first few months. “For me, writing is my most enduring passion. I have written my entire life, but this is my first book so I poured myself into this narrative. You have to be a bit obsessed I think to complete a book. I have a great support system, but yes I was chained to my desk every day for months at a time,” says Lisa.
On being the first celebrity talk openly about cancer
Steroids, chemo and hospital hallway didn’t actually kill the spirit in her. She narrates in the book, how on the eve of the film premiere she was struggling to fit into her shoes. Lisa recalls, “40 pounds heavier and about to debut my moon face in front of my peers and the international media, I felt just a little bit of self pity-not because I was ill, but because I was unable to fit into my shoes. I was ill, but because I couldn’t get into my shoes, I have done everything to avoid being looked at in a certain way and here I was; dredging up vanity to encapsulate my life.”
Her cancer which she jokingly calls, ‘The Cancer’ is a rare little orphan cancer of the plasma cells in the bone marrow. “The marrow is the deepest part of yourself, and I can feel those depths shifting, unmuffling and upending all that is hidden. After years of floating in the wind like a leaf, coming and going, I am ready to feel rooted,” explains Lisa. She had submitted her manuscript and had taken it back to re-write it again as she wanted the book to be candid, well written and an insteps account of her life. It was during the process of writing the book her cancer relapsed and then she got married and had her twins.
“I have chronicled exactly how and why I decided to speak openly about my cancer diagnosis in Close to the Bone, but also how I believe making the announcement from the red carpet at the Toronto International Film Festival bridged the two versions of me- the public perception of me as an actor and model and the authentic individual with a host of human frailties and desires- as well as freed me from the pathology of perfection that has dogged me for many years.”
A personal narrative
Lisa doesn’t subscribe to celebrity culture. She is a human being very invested in the deeply human experience of navigating this beautiful mess called life. She says, “I have removed as many masks as possible in sharing my story so hopefully in revealing my inner journey, thoughts, hopes and insecurities, many others will recognize themselves.”