Author: Lisa Ray
"Close to the Bone" | NOT JUST A CANCER MEMOIR
Funny, gut-wrenching and charmingly honest all at once, this book is Lisa Ray’s brave and inspiring story of a life lived on her own terms; writes Sayantan Ghosh
“My cancer which I jokingly call The Caner (you have to laugh or as they say, you’ll die) – is a rare little orphan cancer of the plasma cells in the bone marrow.”
This quote is not an anecdote neither a proposition nor a motivation – it is all about one life – the life of a successful actor who overcame devastating cancer at the age of 37. Lisa Ray, one of India’s first supermodels, actor, cancer survivor, mother of twins through surrogacy and as she defines herself “nomad”, has come up with her memoir Close to the Bone.
Life has its own way of moving – a way which cannot be restrained, a way which never fails to surprise, a way which brings us down but also whispers in our ear the trick to get up and fight back – life is indeed about endurance. In 2009, Ray received a diagnosis of Multiple Myeloma – a rarest of rare cancer which is commonly known as bone cancer.
In her memoir, she narrates stories which will inspire readers to live, love and let live. Every chapter of her memoir is less about her and much more about life – about things you never want to see but when imposed you have to recover from. For, what can you say, welcome? Go back? I want to be alone? Or let’s walk mutually, holding hands while facing ups and down together?
Ray chose the last one. “Today I derive a sense of strength from straddling my contradictions but for a long time...I was negotiating an identity crisis. Identity and the notion of belonging dogged me, until, through my spiritual inquiry, I changed my framework of life to see something inside everyone that transcends narrow labels and identities,” she writes.
Ray, the daughter of a Polish mother and Bengali father, lived a life of duality. In the first chapter, she narrates her growing up among dualities, practicalities of her mother and ideologies of her father. Her depiction of Calcutta brings the cacophony of Bengali life spruced with the aura of the city’s many lanes and bylanes. She makes it clear that she was never an outsider to the city of joy because the city welcomes everyone with a smile and of course, encompasses the person with joy.
This book is not a cancer memoir but a memoir of a journey, a journey of joy and sorrow, new and old, light and dark, love and rejection and finally, laughing boldly at death. Starting from her life, she takes readers on a journey of her cancer treatment, to be specific to the cell replacement procedure, which was tough and devastating. The allopathic treatment did heal her cancer but what about her soul?
Be it an author, a cancer survivor, a footballer or an actor, life is not an easy choice. Life is not even a phenomenon where you can say “its not my cup of tea”. When Ray acquires treatment for her battle of
survival, she becomes vulnerable from inside. She writes about how she worked to rebuild her immune system and
reboots herself emotionally. She took the path of spirituality, practised Buddhism,and relied on Ayurveda and meditation regularly.
“I was framing it as just another adventure in a life that had circled the globe for three decades, plucking one experience after the other like cherries from trees. Now, cells in my bones were rampaging, multiplying, squeezing out the red blood cells,” Ray writes.
The book is a gripping story of a life, of struggle and loving ourselves. Autobiographies are nothing new in the sphere of Indian literature. Then why should a reader read this book?
At a time when we are struggling with space and momentum, relationship and principles, moving on and compromising – this book lets the reader rethink their life. This is not a self-help book but a book to look into the world with more love and affection. It is a story which many survivors around us want to tell because the life of a cancer survivor is not only about cancer but also about enduring love, unexpected betrayal, successes achieved and of course, the fighting struggle for survival.
At the end, readers will be taken to the beginning of a new life and to a life where they can reinvent themselves. In the end, this book gives courage to the soul along with bountiful of fresh air to breathe.
And, Lisa Ray concludes her memoir by writing:
“Let’s make Myeloma Matter…
And a cancer carol…
I wish you a long re-mission,
I wish you a long re-mission…
I wish ME a long re-mission
And a Happy, New Life.”