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Man beats three cancers, earns black belt

Ray Dinius wants to spread the word that you can do anything you put your mind to. He is living proof, having survived three cancers and earning his black belt in karate. SUBMITTED PHOTO

After watching his 23-year-old niece and sister-in-law pass away from cancer, Ray Dinius of Big Lake realized his inspiring cancer survival story was rare and need to be shared.

Dinius, 75, karate kicked three cancers without chemo or radiation treatment and then, in only five years, earned his first degree black belt.

His inspiring story all started when Dinius couldn’t find anything interesting on TV. It was that awkward season between summer softball and college basketball when Dinius decided he didn’t want to become that old couch potato he was on the path to be.

The average 69-year-old cancer survivor would ponder ideas of crafting or gardening, but Dinius was more drawn to the physically demanding sport of karate.

“I wasn’t doing much besides just sitting around, so I thought I should just give it a try,” Dinius said. “You don’t know if you don’t try.”

An advertisement for the Dojo Karate Studio in Monticello jumped out at him in the newspaper, so he thought “what can I lose.”

While Dinius watched the younger classes excel at the sport, he couldn’t help but wonder “What in the world did I get myself into?”

“But the instructor (Mr. Len Zepeda) kept telling me to not pay attention to them,” he said. “He didn’t expect me to keep up with the young students because he said everyone goes at their own pace.”

Dinius takes classes four times a week with junior high students, high school students and 20 year olds. He has to work twice as hard just to keep up with the younger students.

Throughout the five years, every so often, the physical and mental demands of karate got the best of him, but he never gave up.

“There were many times I didn’t believe I could do it,” he said. “I just walked away and went home, but each time Mr. Zepeda kept telling me ‘you can do it, Ray, you can do it.’”

For Dinius, it wasn’t only karate; it was an exercise that kept him healthy and young.

“I see these old people with canes and I am 75 years old thinking ‘I must look young,’” he said. “People just assume I am way younger than I really am because of how healthy I am now.”

His doctor at the Minneapolis VA Health Care System told him that people at his age “usually sit around and don’t do anything.”

Even when Dinius was diagnosed with cancer the third time, he continued fighting with support from his family and Mr. Zepeda.

“With cancer, karate helps a lot because it gets you up and gets your body moving,” he said. “It builds your strength and confidence.”

Dinius lives with the moto that “there is life even after being diagnosed with cancer.”

Sixteen years ago, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and had to have his prostate removed. Dinius was fortunate enough to not have to do any chemo or radiation treatment due to the cancer not returning.

Although seven years later, Dinius’ doctor found five traces of cancer in his colon.

“It was caught early enough where they could just remove the cancer and didn’t have to do any radiation treatment,” he said.

Shortly after starting karate, Dinius was diagnosed with bladder cancer. Luckily, he was just given weekly medication for treatment and still didn’t have to do any chemo or radiation.

“I was just lucky that none of my cancers returned over the years and I am not going to live scared that they might,” he said.

Dinius heard stories of cancer patients who, after getting diagnosed, went home to give up, or young people who never pushed themselves to do anything.

“They just give up,” he said, “I have had cancer three times and I still have found life after each time because, if I didn’t, I know I wouldn’t be here today. I am confident that I can do anything that I set my mind to.”

Dinius received his first degree black belt March 7 at the Convention Center in downtown Minneapolis. His next goals are to continue his training at the Dojo Karate Studio and to receive his second degree black belt.

“I am still in good health, I enjoy life, I spent all this money and a second degree will only take me another two years to do,” he said. “So there is no reason for me not to get it.”

Dinius is hoping to get his inspirational story printed in newspapers from all 50 states. His dream is to motivate as many people as he can.

“I hope people will pass on the message that you’re never too old to do anything and that you can do anything as long as you never give up,” he said.