While Angelina Jolie's health has often been the focal point of tabloid tongue-clucking, the superficial stories have never delved into how her mother Marcheline Bertrand fought cancer for almost a decade and died at 56. Or the fact that she has wondered about her own risk of the disease. But Angelina's moving op-ed in The New York Times entitled "My Medical Choice" is a game-changer.
The famous mother of six has revealed that she is a carrier of the "faulty"/mutant gene, BRCA1, which significantly increases a woman's risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer. And as a result, she chose to have a double mastectomy, which she managed to keep a secret -- until now.
And why now?
Because the actress-turned-director says she hopes other women can benefit from her experience. She says that while "cancer is still a word that strikes fear into people’s hearts," she hopes her story reminds us that we're NOT powerless. She wants women to know that through a blood test, they can find out if they're "highly susceptible to breast and ovarian cancer, and then take action."
Angelina then goes on to explain what action she's taken ... How the whole process began on February 2, with "a procedure known as a 'nipple delay,' which rules out disease in the breast ducts behind the nipple, draws extra blood flow to the area, and increases the chance of saving the nipple." Then, how two weeks later, she had the major surgery, where the breast tissue is removed and temporary fillers are put in place. She shares:
You wake up with drain tubes and expanders in your breasts. It does feel like a scene out of a science-fiction film. But days after surgery, you can be back to a normal life.
Nine weeks after that, the final surgery was completed with the reconstruction of the breasts with an implant. She reassures, "There have been many advances in this procedure in the last few years, and the results can be beautiful."
So, piece of cake, right? No way. Angelina openly admits that her decision wasn't an easy one, but it's one she's "very happy" to have made. Especially because now, her chances of getting breast cancer have gone from 87 percent to under 5. She says, "I can tell my children that they don’t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer." Talk about being empowered, being brave, and being an inspiration.
We've always had reason to admire Angelina Jolie. She's always put herself out there, made no apologies for who she is or how she wants to live her life, but this latest move is on a whole new level. Thanks to her candor, there's no doubt: More women will be inspired to know more about where they stand, to be proactive, and to feel even more empowered to make a bold move, if necessary, to minimize their risk. And for that reason alone, Angelina deserves a standing ovation.
What's your reaction to Angelina's news? Have you been tested for your genetic risk of breast and ovarian cancer?
Image via Georges Biard/Wikimedia