Angelina Jolie’s mastectomy is big news. Why? Because it was voluntary. Is this a cover-up for getting a breast augmentation? Another example of her “crazy” life choices?
In an Op-Ed published today in the New York Times, Angelina Jolie publicly talks about her decision to get a double-mastectomy. My heart is warmed by her bravery — both in pursuing the procedure and in talking about it openly.
Bravery of Angelina Jolie’s Mastectomy
Mastectomy terrifies many women who have to get the procedure in order to treat existing cancer. Anxiety about losing sensation, losing their nipples, and feeling somehow less of a woman haunts the decision. The costs of surgery, both financial and the time-commitment, can be scary. Cancer is about the scariest diagnosis out there. These fears are exactly why Angelina Jolie’s mastectomy is so brave.
Jolie is saying hey, there’s a way to measure your risk and take action accordingly. I did it. She says her motivation is watching her mom lose her own 10 year battle with cancer. She wants to be alive for her kids, not waiting for her 87% risk of developing breast cancer to strike.
I understand and support her thinking on this one. My own mother died from complications of uterine cancer when I was 16. Her mother died from ovarian cancer before I was born. I know at some point in the next 10-15 years I want to get a voluntary hysterectomy. I know taking my ovaries will trigger instant menopause and a host of other complications. I’m not sure I care. I don’t want to die between 45 and 65.
As a mom, Angelina chose to take upfront pain in order to be there for her children in the future. Such a brave and personal choice. And it is an individual choice, not a blanket recommendation for all women to pursue.
Consequences of “Going Public”
I wonder what the backlash will be? Will she lose roles because movie producers will decide she’s less attractive? Does Angelina Jolie’s mastectomy make her less of a woman? She says no, but some comments from fans are already negative. Tweets and blog comments mourn the loss of her original boobs, even saying Jolie is “dead to me.”
Why, in an era of excellent reconstructive surgery, does this matter? She’s still an actress who will continue her career based on her talent and her looks. She’s still an advocate for at-risk kids all over the world. And now she’s a great role model for other women.
Medical experts caution that voluntary mastectomy may not be the best choice for all women, even those with the same BRCA1 gene. I am sure my own doctors will not exactly like my desire to have a hysterectomy. Yet I am thrilled someone in the public eye, who’s career is based somewhat on her appearance, came forward openly.
During National Women’s Health Week, Angelina Jolie’s mastectomy and the resulting publicity from her open stance give other women permission to do what is right for us, our bodies and our health.