UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center Magazine Winter 2018 2018 Volume XXXIII Number 3 - Page 13

As for his parents, they were devastated. “My parents are elderly, and my mother was absolutely heartbroken. She thought I was going to die. I kept reminding her that we have to be positive, we don’t need negativity.” At the time, Raita was doing what he loves, reporting as a sports anchor for ABC 33/40. He continued going to work and appearing on live television, however, Raita did not tell his viewers nor the majority of his coworkers of his diagnosis. “I did not want them to treat me differently. I mean what are they supposed to say to me? I did not want the kind of attention where people are tip-toeing around me and ignoring the fact that I have cancer. So, yes I was secretive about my diagnosis because I did not want it to define me in the eyes of all these people,” says Raita. Feeling the Support Raita’s cancer required chemotherapy and radiation, followed by surgery. “Chemotherapy wasn’t that bad, and radiation was a piece of cake. About eight weeks after my major surgery I had recovered, but the doctors had to wait nine months to reverse the ostomy. There were trying moments, but it all went smoothly.” Raita did experience fatigue as a main symptom from chemotherapy, but he pushed through it and maintained his normal routine, missing only one day of work before his surgery. “I received a lot of viewer feedback once I underwent surgery, I even got letters from kids in schools and felt like everybody was pulling for me. It meant a lot to me that people took time from their own lives to encourage me.” Raita felt tons of encouragement from the community during his battle with cancer, and this motivation is what helped him push through the hardest of days. “I had a great support system, both from the community and at UAB. Dr. Tina Wood was my oncologist, and Dr. Marty Heslin was my surgeon — both of them are just terrific. I was so blessed to be at UAB,” says Raita. After being cancer free for five years, the doctors found a couple spots on Raita’s lung that they wanted to remove, but he did not need chemotherapy or radiation and bounced back after two short weeks. Moving On “Everybody knows somebody who has had cancer. Either you’ve had it yourself, your brother, your grandmother, or your friend of a friend has had cancer. I am not special because I had cancer, I am one in hundreds of thousands of people who have had this disease.” Raita is very attentive to his follow-up appointments and other yearly check-ups. He feels strongly in encouraging others to receive their necessary colorectal screening, although he jokingly admits the preparation for that procedure is the worst part. “There are things in life that I think are prudent that you do, I think getting your colonoscopy is one of them,” says Raita. “Pay attention to your body. Pay attention to what you eat, but really just try to stay in tune with your body and address ailments that don’t feel right.” Now more than two years’ cancer free, Raita laughs, “I am living life man! I feel great!” Raita has spent a lot of his time doing freelance work, interviewing, speaking to groups about his cancer journey and being a cancer survivor. “I do not think about cancer. I am more than happy to speak to groups or give advice from my experience, but again, cancer is not something I think about nor something I have ever let define me or dictate who I am going to be.” Raita is currently working for an advertising agency in Birmingham. “Your diagnosis is not the end of the world. Continue to be yourself and do what you do. It is not as bad as you think it is, if you have the right attitude.” # K N O W U A B C C C • “I didn’t want people to look at me with some sort of sympathy because I have cancer. I wanted them to watch me because of who I am and what I love doing.” U A B . E D U / C A N C E R 11