In October, Cincy Chic wrote a story about Heather Ray, a four-time cancer survivor. At the age of 12, Ray lost her leg to cancer, and on Feb. 24, cancer took her life.
In her almost 30-year fight with cancer, Ray refused to let her disease define her. Instead, she worked to define cancer through a cure. Whether she was cycling on a stationary bike for four hours with Spin for the Cure or hopping along with her crutches for Race for the Cure, Ray put so much of her energy to support Susan G. Komen for the Cure of Greater Cincinnati.
She worked so hard that she raised $44,000 between 2008 and 2009. Because of her efforts, Komen Cincinnati honored Ray in both 2008 and 2009 with the Kim L. Dahinghaus Friends for Life Award, an annual award given to the highest individual fundraiser for Race for the Cure Cincinnati.
"Heather is the definition of a hero. She was facing so much adversity in her own life, yet her whole goal was to help other people," says Amy Ritzie, marketing and special events coordinator for Komen Cincinnati.
Beyond her financial contribution to the fight, Ray worked with Komen Cincinnati to develop a community profile. Through research and data, this profile displays the specific needs of the Greater Cincinnati area in regard to breast cancer awareness and support, so Ray’s work helped make sure that those $44,000 she raised went directly where they were needed most.
In addition to her personal efforts, Ray served as an inspiration to spread awareness and gain even more support for the cause. She was the spokesperson and model for the 2009 Spin for the Cure campaign.
Vickie Magliano, founder of Spin for the Cure and close friend to Ray, would share Ray’s story to encourage others and give them confidence in themselves. "With that influence, with that energy, it basically escalated a bunch of people who never thought that they could do it," she says. "They saw Heather and thought, ‘If she can do it, I can do it.’ "
That mentality reached one woman who, like Ray, lost her leg to cancer. After seeing Ray promote Spin for the Cure, she started going to Magliano’s spin classes and will be participating in this year’s Spin for the Cure, Magliano says.
Ray’s inspiration spreads beyond physical activities like spinning, running and walking to everyday life. Magliano keeps a photo of Ray outside her bedroom to serve as a daily reminder. "Every morning I wake up and say, ‘Hey, good morning! Give me strength today because I got a lot of things to do today," Magliano says.
From funds and research to dedication and inspiration, Ray truly is a hero. Cancer might have taken her life, but she and her fight for a cure continue on in her story. Learn more about Ray’s story in the below video, which was created by Ray’s close friend Michael Holder.
Photos courtesy of The Cincinnati Enquirer
Left photo photgrapher: Gary Landers
Right photo photographer: Ernest Coleman
Video courtesy of Michael Holder Films