In a stunning New York Times op-ed piece, Angelina Jolie revealed that she’d recently had a double mastectomy. The actress and mother of 6 revealed that she’d considered the procedure after finding out that she carries a mutation in her BRCA1 gene, which greatly increases a woman’s risk for both breast and ovarian cancers.
Thanks to the gene, “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,” she writes.
After her own mother — actress Marcheline Bertrand — died of ovarian cancer at 56, Jolie decided she didn’t want her own children experience the same loss. “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.”
Jolie underwent three separate procedures, beginning in early February, and culminating in reconstructive breast surgery in April. “I am writing about it now,” she says, “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.”
As for how her partner Brad Pitt handled the procedures: “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.,” she writes. “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.”
Jolie closes the article by noting how powerful it can be to take control over the things you can actually change. “Life comes with many challenges. The ones that should not scare us are the ones we can take on and take control of.”
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