JLF NEW YORK: The Healing
Manisha Koirala in conversation with Sanjoy Roy
“Look at her today, so healthy and beautiful!”
Proud words from Dr. Chi, Gynecologic Surgeon, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York. “Sometimes you can get everything out, sometimes most of it. With Manisha we could get everything out…it then depends on how well you do with the treatment”.
It is an emotional moment for Bollywood actor Manisha Koirala, who re-connects with her surgeon at Sloan Kettering, after her surgery for ovarian cancer in December 2012.
Manisha is in New York for a conversation on her book “Healed: How Cancer Gave Me a New Life”, at the JLF New York Festival hosted at Asia Society, New York.
Along with Dr. Chi is present Dr. Makkar, her chief care giver, who holds her hand during the chemotherapy treatment, giving her the emotional anchorage she so desperately needs.
“Manisha is an incredibly intelligent human being. She took this head on and did exactly what we asked her to do. She was incredibly tenacious and brave.” Dr. Makkar is all praise for Manisha’s fighting spirit and her determination to crest this peak!
Manisha is visibly moved and the atmosphere in the auditorium is charged with emotion, as the audience gets a glimpse of the strong bond between the patient and her doctors, and her overwhelming gratitude to the team who have given her a new lease of life.
“I took notes and tried to do everything according to the notes. My point of reference was my doctors and I would not budge beyond”.
Running as a packed session at the Jaipur Literature Festival this January, “The Healing” is a conversation through which the anchor Sanjoy Roy, navigates Manisha’s journey of battling an advanced stage of ovarian cancer and emerging as a successful Survivor. This discussion has inspired audiences in different cities like Hong Kong, London, Belfast and Houston, especially those in different stages of cancer treatment, drawing strength from her triumph over the dreaded disease.
New York though is special and Manisha’s excitement is palpable as she proudly invites her beloved doctors on stage for a photograph! Giving hope to all present that no matter how traumatic the ordeal, the human spirit has the will to surmount it.
The book has been a cathartic experience for Manisha, who realizes how important Hope is for a patient facing a cancer diagnosis, and she shares her journey wanting every person to have faith that they too can emerge cancer free. With simple honesty she invites the reader into walking with her, from her initial days in looking for a break as a Bollywood heroine to the heady stardom she attains, saying she is too young and immature to understand the price it comes with! An amazing encounter with two Maori Healers from New Zealand who do her body scan and exclaim “Your ovaries are red hot! You are angry with your ovaries!!” Six months later Manisha’s CT scan reveals ovarian cancer.
Fructured relationships with her mother, her brother, a script of abandonment and loss that runs through love interests leaving her more lonely than ever and a career that is sliding – the cancer diagnosis is a jolt that shocks her into taking stock of her life and wanting to live more than ever. Thus begins a journey from Nepal to Jaslok Hospital, Mumbai to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York – fluctuating between hope and despair, loneliness and tenacity, before being declared cancer free in April 2013!
Manisha is candid enough to share the trepidation with which she returns to Mumbai after her chemotherapy. She is bald, with no eye lashes, no eyebrows, her face swollen with the heavy intake of steroids – how would people accept her? Once a beautiful Mega Star, she cannot face the pity in people’s eyes so she covers herself in a hoodie, staring stoically at the ground during her morning walks. Until one morning, a cyclist cheerfully calls out to her “Hey Manisha, Go Girl!” An unexpected pat on the back that makes her look up and recognize the compassion, the encouragement all around. “I realized that Humanity exists!” Hence begins her journey back to Dignity, to Love and to Films.
The Spirit of a Survivor emerging from any trauma is always inspiring but when an audience journeys with the Team that has provided the Life Force Energy, it becomes unforgettable!