Author set to reconnect with Med City

Eve Ensler

You will find cancer survivors who feel relief, even gratitude, to have survived. But one who sees near-death as a gift? That's Eve Ensler.

Ensler, a playwright, activist and author best known for "The Vagina Monologues," has embarked on a 21-city speaking tour for her new memoir, "In the Body of the World," to be released on Tuesday.

Her tour includes a May 7 stop in Rochester, where she spent more than a month, beginning in March 2010, receiving treatment for uterine cancer. The book covers the period of her diagnosis and treatment.

Now recovered, Ensler regards the experience as a wake-up call that reconnected her intellect and spirit to her physical self, and through her body to the rest of the world.

"So much of everything is how we frame things in our brains, and what we tell our bodies is going on," Ensler said. "If you enter chemo and you think, 'This is the worst experience in the world,' that's how it will be.


"But if somebody comes along and says chemo will actually be a transformative process whereby you burn off and shed what needs to go, it can actually do that," she said.

It's an outlook, she says, she couldn't have gained without the help of Mayo Clinic's medical professionals, and even the wider Rochester community, which she has described in her book as "essentially cancer town."

"But it's such a place of care," Ensler said. "It's such a place of kindness. I'm looking forward to coming back there."

"I think Mayo is extraordinary," she said. "I have to say, my surgeons saved my life. And the nurses there are the kindest, most caring, most sensitive humans. So my time there, I don't have enough words."

Foremost an author — "Writing is the place I think I am the happiest," she said — Ensler is perhaps most engaged these days as an activist. She is the founder of V-Day, a global movement to end violence against women and girls. And she is a leader of initiatives including One Billion Rising, a global protest against violence, and City of Joy, a female-centered safe living community for Congolese women who have survived violence.

Her convalescence, though, taught her how — in one doctor's words — "to be a patient."

"I had to stop," Ensler said. "I had to be still for months. … I had time to be with myself, to be with my friends, to reunite with my sister. It was such a blessed period of my life. I had time to just think into the ordinary."

And, she says, the lesson stuck.


"The energy of my life has changed," she said. "It's not like I'm not doing a lot, because I am. But it feels like the intention behind it is different. For so many years … I felt like I had to prove that I wasn't stupid, that I was enough. That's gone. What I'm doing now, I'm doing — most of the time — from deep enjoyment, and because it feels like the right thing to do."

Her goal? To share her sense of connectedness and peace with others.

"I see the world as many of us being highly disassociated and disconnected, and living in a kind of state of somnolence, which is allowing for a lot of terrible things going on that we could be changing," Ensler said.

"The world is in a huge emergency on so many levels, whether it's the insane amount of poor, and people living in economic injustice, or the way we're treating the earth, or the number of women being raped, or the amount of boys that are disassociated from their hearts. I look around and I just think, 'Where is everybody? Why aren't we paying attention?'"

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