It’s all about Angie this week. And not in a silly leg-meme kind of way, but in a very real and powerful way. She sent the media into a frenzy by revealing yesterday morning through an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times that she elected to have a double mastectomy as a preventive measure against breast cancer. If you hadn’t already heard, here’s some background: Apparently her mother had passed away after a ten year battle with the illness, and for years she lived under the cloud of the very real possibility that she too may develop cancer. Her children have often asked her if she will suffer the same fate as their grandmother, which is a very real fear for them to have to face. Through a simple blood test that modern science has made possible, doctors were able to determine that she is, in fact, highly likely to develop breast cancer due to the fact that she has a “faulty” BRCA1 gene, which can be a precursor to both breast and ovarian cancer. In Angie’s case, she is 50% a to develop ovarian cancer, and a shocking 87% likely to develop breast cancer. Armed with that information, she made a very bold and undoubtedly very difficult decision to have a double mastectomy to ensure that she would be around for her kids for years to come and not suffer the same demise as her mother unfortunately had. Of course, it’s no guarantee, but when faced with a staggering 87% chance of developing a severe illness, she made a choice with which I can certainly empathize.
As a woman, I am in awe of her bravery and applaud her decision to undergo the procedure. And as if that wasn’t difficult enough, she shared her story with the world in hopes of inspiring other women to get tested and take control of their personal health. To be clear, she is not advocating preventive mastectomies – this was her own personal choice. But she is setting a strong example that it’s better to face your fears and leverage the medical technology that is available to us today. Almost every household in this country is affected by the disease (either directly or through friends and family) and while drastic measures are not always the right answer, educating ourselves and other women is imperative to avoid unnecessary illness, suffering and in the worst case scenario, untimely death.
Now I’ll admit, I wasn’t always Angie’s biggest fan. Back in the days when she wore a vial of blood around her neck and nearly French kissed her brother at the Oscars, I can honestly say I did not like her very much. I also had been known to consider her a home wrecker back when Brad and Jen split up. But boy, has she come a long way since then – so far that I’d bet even Jen harbors less ill will towards her given all the good that she has done in the world. OK, maybe that’s a stretch, but I do believe that she has more than made up for her questionable behavior and has shown the world that she genuinely has the best interests of humanity at heart.
She has adopted not one, but three children from three different countries. She has made it her personal mission to help refugees around the globe after what she saw and learned while filming Lara Croft in Cambodia and later witnessing the shocking conditions at refugee camps in Sierra Leone and Tanzania. Working closely with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, she was named UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador back in 2001 and has not stopped working towards the betterment of the lives of refugees around the globe. She has clearly made a choice to leverage her notoriety for good, taking every opportunity she can to promote humanitarian causes. She’s formed several charitable organizations and continues to work tirelessly towards improving the lives of people in need in any way she can. She even chose to make her directorial debut a film (In the Land of Blood and Honey) set in Bosnia-Herzegovina to draw attention to the people still suffering from the aftermath of the recent war.
I don’t know about you, but I say that is one admirable lady. All that, and she proactively subjected herself to a traumatic, life changing, painful, aggressive surgery. And rather than keeping it private and moving on with her life, which would certainly have been hard enough to do in itself, she shared her story with the world, opening up about an incredibly personal choice, all with the hope that it will help other women who are struggling with the same reality that she was. If that’s not selfless, I don’t know what is.
On behalf of women everywhere, I commend you, Angelina, and I hope that you just added decades to your life – for your sake, your family’s sake, and for the sake of all those whose lives you positively affect through your heroic actions.