PERSONAL JOURNEY: Woman offers help to those in cancer recovery

Working to stay healthy, especially as we age, is often difficult and time consuming. Mary Raiff of Butler Twp. has been devoted to health and wellness most of her life.

Born and raised in Dayton, she went to private schools and graduated from Chaminade Julienne High School. An avid soccer player, she continued playing in college at the University of Dayton where she studied exercise science, graduating in 1989.

“I got married shortly after college and my husband (Mike) and I moved around a lot,” Raiff said. “But we came back to Dayton after a few years and ended up staying here.”

Raiff took her sports background and began coaching children with the Metro Soccer Club. Her love of exercise also translated well to her chosen career of personal training and teaching classes in aerobics, spinning and boxing.

“I was a stay-at-home mom for many years,” Raiff, who has four children, said. “I loved teaching fitness classes because it kept me involved while I was also raising my kids.”

In 2005, the Raiff family moved to their new home in Butler Twp. With her children growing up, Raiff opened a fitness business inside a local gymnastics club. After a few years, she closed that business but continued teaching classes, eventually landing at the Salvation Army Kroc Center.

“I ran the fitness center there for two years,” Raiff said. “Then I decided to take a step back and just did personal training.”

But just as her professional career was taking off and she was helping others reach their own fitness goals, Raiff found a lump in her chest.

“I found out I had breast cancer in July of 2022,” Raiff said. “I do everything to be as healthy as I can be and have all my life. I found the lump a week before my mammogram was due.”

After her mammogram, an ultrasound was ordered, and Raiff returned for a biopsy.

“I think the doctors and nurses kind of knew before the biopsy,” Raiff said. “I already knew it was cancer.”

Raiff was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, which her daughter Mia, a nurse, confirmed was one of the worst types. Three weeks later, a very worried Raiff started chemotherapy. Her lump had already started growing.

“In the meantime, I had gone to the gym one day and I looked around to see all these ladies lifting heavy weights,” Raiff said. “I realized I had been their teacher. They were all former clients, and I knew then and there I needed to continue to do this for more people.”

One week before her diagnosis, Raiff had started Positive Results Wellness, LLC, with the goal of helping people reach their ultimate level of fitness. Positive thoughts of how she was going to do this helped her throughout her cancer journey. She continued working for the first two rounds of chemo but after the third round, also known as “red devil,” she was very sick.

“I ended my clients at the Kroc Center and phased out my online clients,” Raiff said. “I knew I needed to take care of myself first.”

By the end of her treatment, Raiff began to experience negative side effects. After going through therapy designed to boost her immune system, her joints were affected, and she couldn’t walk.

“There were times I couldn’t physically get out of bed,” Raiff said. “Then they found something in my lymph nodes, and I needed radiation.”

In May of 2023, she ended her radiation treatment and took chemotherapy pills for the next six months. Doctors continued to bombard her with information, and she listened and learned. In the end, she opted for a double mastectomy. Though she has yet to undergo reconstruction surgery (it is scheduled for later this year), Raiff said she is “doing great.”

“I could almost forget it ever happened,” she said. “I kept moving as much as I could in some form even when I was at the worst and the lowest. I felt better and better and am almost back to normal.”

Today Raiff is rebuilding her business and working with former clients. The first three years after a triple negative diagnosis are critical but Raiff continues to have no sign of cancer reoccurrence.

“When I’m working with women clients, I tell them I know what it’s like to gain weight, to feel pain and to stop believing,” Raiff said. “We can do something about our health even at our lowest points. I want to help women believe that they can be strong and healthy so they can better fight something like cancer if it comes along and maybe even prevent something else from happening in the first place.”

About the Author