Wednesday, May 16, 2012

2012.05.09 Debulking

I read (NY Times May 6 Book Review) the review of recent book, “Memoir of a Debulked Woman” by Susan Gubar, because the title fascinated my curious mind.

The word debulking is daunting. BIG!  At first I thought the author had been on a weight loss intensive program. I wish I’d been right. 

Debulking is the standard treatment for ovarian cancer.  My computer kept typing debunking!

Debulking is an operation of 6-8 hours in which surgeons attempt to remove as much cancerous tissue as possible where cancer cells are detected, and organs where malignancy has spread. The body is sliced open from navel to pubic bone.

Gabar is quoted: "Think of debulking as evisceration or vivisection or disemboweling, but performed on a live human being."  Pretty heroic and draconian.  In less formal words YUK!  and EEUWWW! But I admire the author’s candor and her willingness to inform us all, sparing no details.

This massive procedure extends life but rarely cures. Gabar’s treatment was "suboptimal."  Most debulkings are. Optimal would be rare I suppose.

Gubar writes to make people aware of ovarian cancer which gets little public attention, is lethal and doesn't get a lot of research money thrown its way. Warning signs are bloat, fatigue, feeling of satiety ie. bulked up!

I know about ovarian cancer. I have blood tests and ovarian ultrasounds yearly to make sure my ovaries are OK.  My mom had ovarian and was lucky that the tumor they removed was all there was of it.  She lived for 15+ more years and didn't die of it. So rare my gynecologist didn’t believe me that she had it until I showed him her medical records.

Few women live to write about ovarian cancer.  I guess it's not as sexy as breast cancer.  (BTW, there's another book called "Breasts" exploring breasts as the basic anatomy of suckle rather than the sexualized anatomical appendages to fondle, expose, and show off that breasts have become. Hooters no less.) Woman as sex objects again. 

OK, whatever helps to get the public and medical attention women’s health requires. But I don’t see any bill boards or porn pulp for cows tits.

Debulking, however can be a metaphor for what many women in American culture try to do to their bodies with frantic diets and extreme weight-loss procedures like feeding tubes.

Need I say, not all diseases look the same in a woman’s body as they do in the male body, although medical treatments have often been based on how men respond and what men need to heal. Women need to be equivalent (of equal value)  not equal, as in the same. Trust me we’re not there yet.

Women don’t experience the Holy the same as men do either; nor do they talk about divinity or pray in the same way.  As a Spiritual Director I’ve found that women, with a little encouragement, pray in intimacy and freedom, their words and images less forumulaic, less encumbered by patriarchal institutional norms.

In God they trust. And God listens. Shame is not of Godde.   If you hear negative words inside you about yourself when you pray it’s NOT from God.

I am grateful to Susan Gubar who is doing a lot for us all by going public with such a painful and vulnerable topic. It’s hard to make yourself a political issue. But it’s necessary at times. I pray she will have a long remission.

Men and women alike, bless and love all your body inside and out, and dare to mention the unmentionables.

Hey,  how do you think I dared to read a script in Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues WITH my clerical collar on?  Our parish acquired two new young women parishioners from that little unorthodox act of evangelism. Ya never know.