‘Cancer has changed me for the better,’ says Ray. ‘Before cancer I merely existed, after cancer I started living my life.
When she was diagnosed with breast cancer, Rayghana’s first thought was ‘Why not me?’ Not your typical response, but Ray isn’t your typical cancer patient. She detected a lump in her breast at 46, had a mammogram and ultrasound and was told she had stage three breast cancer. Ray was not prepared for the news: she lived an active, healthy life and there was no history of cancer in her family. At age 50, a cancer lesion in her breast bone (sternum) was discovered, which progressed her into stage four. Her cancer is not curable, but it has not spread from this area and Ray remains on treatment and medication to keep her condition stable.
The possible side effects range from hair loss and headaches to muscle pain, tiredness, nausea, diarrhea, dizziness, anxiety and depression. But Ray has suffered none of these and been able to live an active, normal life for the past eight years, despite doctor’s predictions of five. She attributes this to her active lifestyle and positive attitude. ‘My response to doctor’s predictions of five years was that only God knows my expiry date,’ says Ray. ‘I made a firm decision to live for my four young sons rather than focus on my diagnosis. ‘Chemotherapy was not as bad as I was expecting. I simply refused to stay in bed. I wasn’t nauseous, but I was very constipated though!’TACKLING THE TOUGH ROAD The emotional and physical journey that cancer patients face is as unique as the individual. Ray shares her advice on how she stayed motivated:
1. Work through your feelings, become or stay positive. 2. Join support groups or buddy systems. 3. Accept your condition! 4. Out of bad comes good. Reach out! 5. Know you are responsible for your own joy, health and happiness. 6. Exercise, eat healthily and surround yourself with positive people.
‘Cancer has changed me for the better,’ says Ray. ‘Before cancer I merely existed, after cancer I started living my life. These days I’m a road runner, I participate in Dragonboat paddling and I hike. I travel the world, share my story and motivate others.’ She has silenced the skeptics by completing more than 25 half marathons and in 2013 she finished the Old Mutual Two Oceans Half Marathon (21,1km), receiving her medal on her sixth attempt. She also gives motivational talks and belongs to supporting organisations like Amabele Belles, and recently did the nine-day Cancervive Ride to raise awareness of the importance of early detection. Religion and faith has also played a part in how Ray overcomes her daily struggle with cancer. ‘For me, there is a Higher Power. I have connected with God and I am God conscious each day.’