Back in April we learned that Sharon Osbourne made the difficult but brave decision to undergo a preventative double mastectomy due to her genetic predisposition to breast cancer … today we learn that actress Angelina Jolie has made that difficult and brave decision as well. In an opinion piece written for the New York Times, Angelina reveals to the world that she has decided that due to an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer, her only option was to undergo the procedure … and today she shares her story with the world. Click below to read excerpts from her NYT piece … it’s an amazing story that I think each and every one of you should read.
MY MOTHER fought cancer for almost a decade and died at 56. She held out long enough to meet the first of her grandchildren and to hold them in her arms. But my other children will never have the chance to know her and experience how loving and gracious she was. We often speak of “Mommy’s mommy,” and I find myself trying to explain the illness that took her away from us. They have asked if the same could happen to me. I have always told them not to worry, but the truth is I carry a “faulty” gene, BRCA1, which sharply increases my risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer. My doctors estimated that I had an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer, although the risk is different in the case of each woman. Only a fraction of breast cancers result from an inherited gene mutation. Those with a defect in BRCA1 have a 65 percent risk of getting it, on average. Once I knew that this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much I could. I made a decision to have a preventive double mastectomy. I started with the breasts, as my risk of breast cancer is higher than my risk of ovarian cancer, and the surgery is more complex. On April 27, I finished the three months of medical procedures that the mastectomies involved. During that time I have been able to keep this private and to carry on with my work. But I am writing about it now because I hope that other women can benefit from my experience. Cancer is still a word that strikes fear into people’s hearts, producing a deep sense of powerlessness. But today it is possible to find out through a blood test whether you are highly susceptible to breast and ovarian cancer, and then take action … I wanted to write this to tell other women that the decision to have a mastectomy was not easy. But it is one I am very happy that I made. My chances of developing breast cancer have dropped from 87 percent to under 5 percent. I can tell my children that they don’t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer. It is reassuring that they see nothing that makes them uncomfortable. They can see my small scars and that’s it. Everything else is just Mommy, the same as she always was. And they know that I love them and will do anything to be with them as long as I can. On a personal note, I do not feel any less of a woman. I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity. I am fortunate to have a partner, Brad Pitt, who is so loving and supportive. So to anyone who has a wife or girlfriend going through this, know that you are a very important part of the transition. Brad was at the Pink Lotus Breast Center, where I was treated, for every minute of the surgeries. We managed to find moments to laugh together. We knew this was the right thing to do for our family and that it would bring us closer. And it has. For any woman reading this, I hope it helps you to know you have options. I want to encourage every woman, especially if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, to seek out the information and medical experts who can help you through this aspect of your life, and to make your own informed choices.
You can read Angelina Jolie‘s entire piece for the New York Times HERE, I urge you to PLEASE take the time to read her story and take her words to heart. I cannot, for the life of me, imagine having to face a decision to undergo a surgery like this but women are faced with this same scenario on a daily basis. An 87% chance of developing breast cancer is something that cannot be ignored, so I guess this decision sounds easy … that is, until you are the one that has is faced with the reality. I cannot express how brave I think Angelina is, not only to make this decision for herself — and in turn, her family — but also with her decision to share her story with the world. I must confess, I do not know enough about this kind of genetic testing to speak with any authority whatsoever, and I am humbled by Jolie‘s story … but I urge you readers out there to seek out more information about this kind of preventative testing, if possible. Thank you Angelina, for sharing with the world your brave medical choice.