Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Cancer Memoir

Eve Ensler, author of the play "The Vagina Monologues," has written a book about her treatment for uterine cancer. Intertwined in the narrative is the time she is spending in the Republic of Congo interviewing women who've been brutally raped and tortured by soldiers in the ongoing war for the country's natural resources.

In the Body of the World spares no details about Ensler's journey through the cancer rituals so many of us know from our own travails with the disease: denial, terror, anger, and pain. She's graphic in her description of the abscess that nearly kills her and the bodily fluids that leak from her body. All I could think of was, gee I didn't have it so bad. I didn't vomit as much and I only needed morphine a few times. Everyone's cancer treatment is different, and my memory has obviously been affected by all the poison that's been pumped through my body. I admit to feeling that her descriptions became tiresome after a while. Also, she postulates she got may have gotten cancer from her father sexually abusing her as a child. The trauma may have infected her soul and finally overwhelmed her immune system. I do believe acute stress can make us very sick. My doctors said there was no known reason why I developed leukemia. It got me, and I've spent 7+ years on a looking over my shoulder for it lurking in the shadows.

Ensler returns to the Congo cancer-free and is instrumental, in raising the funds to build "The City of Joy," a sanctuary for abused women. These women heal and go back to their villages to help women empower to seek a better life, even if they have suffered jaw-dropping violence. Ensler, by the way, is the founder of V-Day, a global organiation to end violence against women.

The book is short, and I recommend it to those who've been through the battle, as a patient, or a caretaker. Ensler captures the raw physical and emotional pain of Cancerland. I found it cathartic even though my experience was very different.   

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