Last night in an editorial that has left the world stunned, Angelina Jolie announced that in February she underwent a double mastectomy. She said that after her mother's death at 56 from ovarian cancer, she got tested for the BRCA1 gene, and when it was positive, she decided to do whatever was necessary to prevent her six children from losing their mother too.
In the powerful and brave piece, the 37-year-old actress wrote, "I can tell my children that they don't need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer."
The process wasn't easy, but through it all, she has put her children first. A source told People that Brad and Angelina did everything they could to keep their kids' lives as uninterrupted as possible. "Things have appeared normal. The kids have kept their schedules as usual. They have been in school during the day and have attended after-school activities like they always do."
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It was just two weeks after the surgery that the couple took Vivienne and Knox to the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles on Valentine's Day. For Easter we saw the whole family hunting eggs. Of course that doesn't mean there wasn't pain, fear, and stress on their family along the way, but what a relief it must be to be able to tell her children that she has taken charge and done everything she can to fight this disease. The surgery takes her risk of breast cancer down from 87 percent to 5 percent, and that's pretty amazing.
She wrote that when they had asked her previously if what happened to her mother could happen to her, she told them not to worry, but now she can say it with conviction. While everyone might not choose the same path given this news, she deserves nothing but admiration for making the one she felt best for her family.
It's amazing how our outlook on our own health often changes once we have children. Suddenly, every decision we make about our own bodies has much bigger ramifications. I've wanted to be healthier because I want to be around for my kids. I make (and keep!) medical appointments that I used to skip, and I get things checked out that I previously would have put off before I became a mother. Because there's nothing more heartbreaking or motivating to be as healthy as we can be than the thought of not being there to watch our children grow and live their lives. Kudos to Angelina for her bravery and for serving as an inspiration to all of us to take charge of our health when we're able.
As she wrote: "Life comes with many challenges. The ones that should not scare us are the ones we can take on and take control of."
What would you do if you found out you carried this gene?
Image via ABC