I don’t know Angelina Jolie. I’ve never met her… or even seen her on the streets of Los Angeles, where I live. But tonight, Angelina Jolie has officially rocked my world and made me feel things I can’t even describe.
Because tonight, Angelina Jolie has come out, sharing that she is BRCA positive. What does that mean? It means a genetic mutation in her body gives her an 87 percent chance of breast cancer, 50 percent ovarian risk (the same cancer that took her own mother at the age of 56). It’s a genetic mutation I’m quite familiar with, because I have it too.
And like me, Angelina Jolie opted to do whatever she could to drastically decrease the odds of being diagnosed with cancer — she underwent a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy, which she writes about for the New York Times.
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.
By going public with this, Angelina has an opportunity to educate those who might not understand the genetic risk and open a dialog that can lead to more research, resources and support for those who need it.
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 choose not to keep my story private because there are many women who do not know that they might be living under the shadow of cancer. It is my hope that they, too, will be will able to get gene tested, and that if they have a high risk they, too, will know that they have strong options.
I’ll probably never get to tell Angelina how much her going public with her story has touched me and potentially helped so many. But if I did, I would share how I, too, understand what it’s like to lose a mom too young… how I know how it feels to have cancer hang over me every single day, leaving me terrified that I’d ultimately be taken from my husband and children. I’d share my eternal gratitude for her courageous fight and important way she’s come forward to share her experience with the world. [Hey, we could also compare notes on having biological and adopted children, along with studly and supportive husbands, right?]
Thank you, Angelina Jolie, from the bottom of my heart.
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