Although I used to follow news about Angelina Jolie and her life choices on a daily basis (read nearly obsessive), I was really surprised by the news of her double mastectomy. My initial reaction was stunned: I was stunned. Because I thought the worse had happened and she discovered she suffered from breast cancer. As I remembered her own mother died from cancer a couple of years back and these types of cancer are usually hereditary (doctors recommend that if the mother had breast cancer, the daughter has to start doing regular checkups far earlier than usual because this is, sadly, a type of cancer that runs in the family).
But no. Angelina Jolie had a double mastectomy as a preventive measure! I passed from stunned to shocked. Hit the jump to understand why I reacted the way I did!
I don’t know if you’re aware of the latest studies related to breast cancer and the proactive attitude towards this kind of affection, but while everyone and their dog will recommend you start doing your regular breast cancer check-ups after you’ve joyfully celebrated your 35th birthday (earlier in cases with family history), it appears that the lumps discovered and surgically removed as a ‘proactive’ measure would have evolved into a full fledged breast cancer in less than 30% of the cases.
Sure, Angelina Jolie said she had a high risk of developing this form of cancer – close to 90% – as mutations of the BRCA1 gene were discovered in her blood (Breast Cancer Susceptibility Genes) so she was most likely to live with the breast cancer anxiety for the rest of her days. Would she have really developed this type of cancer? Studies say that an average 65% of those who have the genes usually develop it. How much does it cost to determine if you have the gene or not? more than $3,000 in the US, as Angelina herself said in a lengthy piece published in the NY Times where she came public with her “medical choice’ as she called it.
I am not in the position to argue the just measure of her decision, I do, however, think that she has gone through a very dramatic and intense process, having removed her natural breasts and replaced them with implants. I’m certain her decision was made because of her love for her late mother and for her children, so they won’t have to suffer the loss she had to go through. But… I’m coming with this before you as a woman, a wife, a mother, a daughter. With family history. What’s there to do. Honestly? On one hand, I think Angelina was really brave. It was in her means, she went straight on and did it. Brave. Yes. Definitely. Would I do it? I sincerely don’t know how to answer to that. I would definitely lose sleep and peace of mind over it, and now, after having read Angelina’s open letter I will most probably lose sleep as well. But I can’t tell you how I would react if… hmm I don’t even want to paint that picture in my mind, let alone write it down!
Let’s discuss this. As women. As women’s companions, boyfriends, husbands, fathers, sons. Whoever is reading these lines and feels like sharing – please do. We’re only humans and compassion and empathy should be one of our capital life principles. (you can read Angelina Jolie’s letter here, if you haven’t already!)