Diagnosed with Stage 3 uterine cancer and already emotionally vulnerable from having worked with Congolese women who had beenbrutally raped, the barriers that Eve Ensler had erected to ward off.her own memories of childhood trauma, came flooding back.
“I woke up from surgery and that was the beginning,” says Ensler, author of In the Body of the World (Metropolitan 2013; $25), her memoir about separation and connection—to the body, the self, and the world. “I had been out of my body. The journey through cancer was very painful but it had some gorgeous pieces – I reconnected with my sister, I traveled through my body, I gain vision and love. I had spent.”
Ensler, a Tony award winning playwright, performer and author of "The Vagina Monologues" which won an Obie and has been published in 48 languages and performed in over 140 countries, used promiscuity and dating disorders as a way to avoid analyzing the roots of her problems–her father’s sexual abuse and her mother’s remoteness.
Always an activist – Ensler founded V-Day, a global movement with the mission to end violence against women and girls, which has raised more than $90 million for local groups and activist and inspired the global action One Billion Rising, she also established City of Hope in the Congo for women who have been abused. She says that listening to the stories of women who have been brutalized, raped and emotionally and physically harmed and seeing their strength and courage has helped her on her own road to reconnecting. And she hopes to provide guidance for women – and men – making the same journey.
“You don’t have to get catastrophic cancer to be awake to your body,” says Ensler whose disease is in remission (though she doesn’t like to use that term). “You need to think and ask – are you pushing too hard to keep things away. I hope people can wake up their connectedness, it’s the very reason why we’re here.”
Though it isn’t always easy, it’s ultimately fulfilling and affirming.
“When you understand you’ve created the life you wanted, on your terms, and love in the way you wanted, and then suddenly you realize you have it all, you just feel so rich,” says Ensler, named one of Newsweek’s 150 Women Who Changed the World. “I just feel rich. I feel rich with the treasures of friendship, and just so many people who I have as sisters in the struggle for a world without violence and friends who are with me on this journey. What better thing is there? I feel so lucky.”