Monday, May 27, 2013

Book review: In the Body of the World

A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky to catch Eve Ensler's book reading at Capilano University.

I had read an interview with her in the Vancouver Sun the weekend before the event. Until then, I didn't know Ensler had been treated for uterine cancer. In the interview, she talked about her rage. And I was sold.

As Ensler shared anecdotes of her experience and read from The Body of the World, I felt that kinship I tend to feel when I meet another cancer warrior. All too often, I felt alone during my treatment, despite my friends' and family's efforts to assure me I was not.

Sharing her fear of stopping and being still, Ensler recalled telling someone, "I don't want to be a fucking patient." Amen, sister.

"I feel like this book came from my body," Ensler said. And it reads like it.

In fact, when I completed the book days after seeing her speak, I felt like it could have come from my body too. I told my husband, "It feels like she reached inside my brain and put my words on paper."

The one overwhelming feeling I had, particularly on the days the chemo was exhausting me, was failure. I was angry because my body had failed me. And I was worried if the chemo didn't work and the cancer metastasized, it would be the ultimate failure.

Ensler writes, "All the hundreds of cards and letters and emails I received said the same thing. 'We have no doubt you will make it. You are a force of nature. Nothing can stop you. You will beat this, Eve. You're a fighter.' I know people are trying to give me support and make me feel strong, but sometimes it makes me anxious. What if it just isn't true? What if I can't beat this or it has nothing to do with me? Will it mean I'm a failure and or a failed force of nature, like one of those New York City hurricanes that never shows up after you've put huge taped Xs on your windows? What if it isn't about fighting?"

I wept as I read this particular passage not out of grief but out of relief that someone else got it, that I wasn't alone.

The Body of the World is raw, gut-wrenching, hilarious, and inspirational. If you are a woman, regardless of whether or not you're a cancer warrior, give it a read. I'm pretty sure you won't feel alone either when you are done.

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