Ovarian cancer took my mother, Rosemary Brennan, from us aged fifty-four years old. It was a short nine months but it was horrific. I was twenty-seven and it interrupted my life in ways it has taken me years to process.
Twenty years later the statistics of this disease - that ravages one of the the most sacred parts of a woman’s body - have barely changed. Each year, 300,000 women are diagnosed worldwide, with one in three being diagnosed too late. While chemotherapy treatments are progressing, there is still no accurate early detection test.
It has been suggested that the symptoms are complex and not easily traceable, and so these cancers have for a long time been nicknamed ‘silent killers’. I too have repeated this, trying to make sense of my loss, my grief. But it’s not true.
Ovarian cancer is not a silent killer and it’s time to change this rhetoric. There are symptoms and I believe earlier diagnosis is possible if we empower women to deeply tune into the wholeness of their body’s rhythms and create enough space and confidence to recognise when something is wrong.
Why don’t we do this? Simply put, because of shame and the gender health gap. For centuries within our culture, women’s bodies have been demonised, rejected and medically ignored; seen as inverted forms of the male default. The historic persecution of witches symbolised an agonising loss of knowledge and wisdom from these powerful women, on the healing powers of our body and mother nature. The truth is - your body is here to serve you, but in order to allow it to do that - we need to drop any shame we may be carrying and honour the signs it is giving us.
How can we tune into our bodies? By slowing down, embracing stillness and embracing silence. Grounding our awareness into the body through practising movement, meditation and touch. Remember to check in on yourself everyday, and ask how you are really feeling. If we can combine this ancestral wisdom with modern science, our inner goddess can become our stabilising presence.
To honour the women we have lost to ovarian cancer I have created a beautiful pendent in the likeness of Hygeia, the Goddess of Health, who represents preventative medicine in Greek Mythology. I was thrilled to work with another female founder, Sabine Roemer of Atelier Romy, on this piece that reflects my resolute dedication to changing the way women experience, respond and navigate their own health, ensuring they know when to get tested and therefore get the best possible treatment.
Mika Simmons is a London based actress, filmmaker and host of The Happy Vagina podcast @thehappyvagina