If there was ever a strong role model for mothers and women, it’s Angelina Jolie.
Two years ago, the actress and mother of six shared her decision to have a preventive double mastectomy. Now she’s opening up again in an op-ed in The New York Times about her choice to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes.
Jolie, 39, explains that a mutation in her genetics gave her an 87% risk of breast cancer and a 50% risk of ovarian cancer. These statistics, along with the fact that she lost her mother, grandmother, and aunt to cancer, led her team of doctors to agree that surgery to remove her tubes and ovaries was the best option.
But she wants women to know surgery isn’t the only option.
“There is more than one way to deal with any health issue. The most important thing is to learn about the options and choose what is right for you personally. […] It is not easy to make these decisions. But it is possible to take control and tackle head-on any health issue. You can seek advice, learn about the options and make choices that are right for you. Knowledge is power.”
When I was in my early twenties, I lost my mother and my aunt to cancer in the space of five years. It was devastating, and their absence is a hole in our family that will never be filled. My mom will never hold her grandchildren, she won’t be at my younger brother or sister’s wedding, she won’t be there to help me during those incredibly difficult years of new parenthood.
Since I had two “first-degree” relatives with estrogen-driven cancer (and because I’m a chronic worrier), my doctor referred me to a genetic counselor so that I could get the test for the BRCA gene. But for the past two years, I’ve put it off. There’s always a reason to avoid making that phone call, it seems. For me, it was easier to live with my head in a hole in the sand than face potentially life-altering news.
But when I read Angelina Jolie’s post, I was overwhelmed by her courage, her determination to do whatever it takes to make sure her kids grow up with a mother. She writes, “I know my children will never have to say, ‘Mom died of ovarian cancer.'”
I wish that my mom and aunt had taken this test; I wish we had known about it back then, that we could have taken action sooner to fight the mutation of cells that took them away from us.
I wish this for all the mothers and women out there, and I’m so grateful for Angelina Jolie for turning this into a national discussion, and inspiring us all to be a little more brave.
PS. I called my doctor and set up a screening appointment this morning.