“I’m a very level-headed person,” Melanie Verwoerd told the gynaecological oncologist. “However, I feel like my dogs during a thunderstorm. I’m desperately trying to find somewhere to hide, but everywhere I go, it is still there.”
A week earlier, another gynaecologist had paused mid-sentence during a routine ultrasound examination. Something big was wrong. Blood tests showed elevated tumour markers and scans revealed a huge ovarian tumour with at least a 70% chance of being cancerous. A few days later a radical hysterectomy was performed. As the terror grew, the only way for her to make sense of what was happening was to write. This book is the brutally honest reflection of the year that followed the operation.
The physical recovery was painful, messy and took much longer than expected. However, even more surprising was the deeper, soul-searching questions that the procedure brought to the fore. The physical crisis triggered an intense journey of self-reflection and discovery. It required courageous investigations of the darkest corners of her psyche and forced her to face many of the fears that had comfortably lived there for decades. It also threw a spotlight on the relationship she – and many women – have with their bodies, sex, money as well as the role of intergenerational trauma. In the process, Melanie also had to come to terms with the rage, pain and grief of the hysterectomy specifically and many other losses in general, whilst investigating what she wanted to do with the second part of her life.
Although this book was triggered by a hysterectomy, it is not intended just for those who have had or are going to have a similar experience. It is also meant for every woman who comes to a crossroad and has to reassess her life.
And although it is brutally honest, it is also hope giving, and insists that women’s voices be heard.