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Pt. 2: Eve Ensler on Her Battle with Cancer: “We Can Use Sickness as a Tool for Transformation”

Web ExclusiveSeptember 24, 2012
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We continue our conversation with award-winning playwright — and uterine cancer survivor — Eve Ensler. After getting news she has been cancer-free for two years, Ensler describes how her struggle to survive the disease “got rid of everything that didn’t matter,” and drove her to continue her work on the City of Joy, a safe haven for sexually abused women and girls in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The project grew out of her work on The Vagina Monologues and V-day, a global movement to stop violence against women and girls. Her new campaign is One Billion Rising, and her newest play Emotional Creature opens in New York in November.

Click here to see Part 1 of our interview with Eve Ensler.

Click here to see all of Ensler’s appearances on Democracy Now!

AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined by Eve Ensler, award-winning playwright, creator of The Vagina Monologues. Her newest play, Emotional Creature, opens in New York in November.

Welcome back to Democracy Now!

EVE ENSLER: Thanks. Happy to be here.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s great to have you with us. So, if you could share final words talking about your own battle with cancer and how it has fueled you—if it is possible for Eve Ensler to have more energy, I didn’t know it before, but it seems that you do.

EVE ENSLER: You know, cancer was the hardest thing I’ve been through and the most amazing. And I think what it did for me is it stripped me down to the bone. It got rid of everything that didn’t matter. And it allowed what didn’t need to be inside me to be taken away. And I’ve never felt better in my life. I just got the two-and-a-half-year cancer-free mark. And what I feel now is we have to win. We have to win now. We have to—the revolution has to happen. We have to make sure the disenfranchised are empowered. We have to make sure the raped and beaten are safe. And we have to make sure the poor have the goods of the world and that 47 percent rises up and that the Pussy Riots are out of jail. And I think now, more than ever, I am not afraid. I think cancer was so hard and so scary that that’s done now. And I think we can use sickness as a tool for transform—really, as a tool for transformation.

AMY GOODMAN: And for people who are dealing with cancer, what words of strength do you have for them?

EVE ENSLER: It’s really hard, cancer. It’s really hard. It was the hardest thing I’ve been through. I was really, really sick. But I think if you can find a group of people who are with you, and you can see it as a way—and particularly chemo—as a way of burning off what needs to be burned off, as a kind of shamanic exercise, you can be freed into the next layer of your life. And I think, look, all things that are difficult, all things that are painful, all things that are harsh, have the capacity to ruin us or kick us up into the next gear. And I think you need friends and you need support around you to do that. But I think it’s also a way to really, for me now, to fight all the cancers, right? There are so many cancers, whether they’re the cancers that are poisoning our air and our water and our earth, or the cancers that are rape and are poisoning our bodies, or the cancer of poverty that is diminishing people and making people valueless and feeling like they’re valueless. And I think—I know, for me, the way I survived was by imagining that City of Joy would one day be opened and that I would get back to be with the women of Congo. And I think if you can focus on one thing that you really want to do, that really matters to you, that’s outside yourself, it helps a lot.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Eve Ensler, thank you so much for being here.

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