Don't push myself or advocate becoming a busy bee: Lisa Ray on post-cancer life

Komal Panchamatia

Mumbai, Nov 20 (PTI) It's one day at a time for Lisa Ray after being declared cancer-free and the actor says she is in no rush to work as she would rather focus on her mental well-being.

Ray, who fought a spirited battle with multiple myeloma after being diagnosed with the condition in 2009, said she has realised indulging in work will never make things better.

'I do not push myself. I lead a different life from pre-cancer... when I was a maniac, I was using work to distract myself and avoiding pain, tried many other things. I do not advocate becoming a busy bee or being lauded, like, 'She has come from cancer and she is working so hard'.

'One should put their mental health before anything else. Staying busy is not an answer to everything in life. I believe in taking many extended vacations and meditations,' Lisa told PTI in an interview here.

Ray is currently promoting her book 'Close To The Bone' and she said her post-cancer life is all about enjoying the beauty around her.

'Everyone will have their unique way on how to operate before and after cancer. I refuse to get into a particular schedule. For some people, staying busy is the thing. For others, having a different quality of life, like smelling the flowers, watching the sunrise and sunset peacefully that's the meaning of life and I say go for it. I follow that.' In the film industry, celebrities have been wary about discussing their health struggles publicly. However, she was the first Indian personality to openly disclose her cancer diagnosis, Ray said.

'I believe I am the first Indian personality, who spoke openly about cancer and since then many people have come forward and that is a positive trend. Like, Manisha Koirala, Sonali Bendre and Tahira Kashyap. The more voices we add, the better it is.

'In India, people tend to look up to people who are celebrities. It makes a big difference as they believe if they can speak openly, it is ok for them to talk about it too.' During her battle, Ray said, she learnt she needs to encourage and help others in coming to terms with their health struggles.

'There are so many people who helped me when I was going through cancer -- like strangers, the nurses, who went above and beyond, a waiter, who talked to me. There was this act of kindness and every time I asked them 'How do I repay you?' and they would say, 'Pay it forward'.

'It is an accessible and radical way of changing our society... touch somebody else's life, talk to them openly, assist someone, they will go out, do things for two-three people and they will take it forward. Imagine the impact you can have in society. People in India want to know about cancer but from people they know and trust. So it has to be a grassroots movement.' The 47-year-old actor asserted her book is 'not a cancer memoir'.

'That bit comes in the last 50 pages. It is not a celebrity autobiography. One may assume it is because I have been known as a public figure but I do not see myself that way. I don't write and think like a celebrity. It is a human tale. I realise I have had so many interesting and unique experiences in my life.' 'Close to the Bone', Ray said, is not a one-off thing for her as she wants to continue writing.

'I have been obsessed with reading and writing, words and sentences since as far back as I can remember... it just happened that I began with a memoir. There is no stopping now.' On the acting front, Ray will reprise her role in the season two of Amazon Prime Video's 'Four More Shots Please!' and the musical film, '99 Songs', backed by A R Rahman. PTI KKP RB RDSRDS