UPDATE: 12:30 PM EST
We’re not the only one’s looking up to Angelina Jolie for her courageous decision to undergo a double mastectomy. Her partner, Brad Pitt, also had some words about her major surgery.
“Having witnessed this decision firsthand, I find Angie’s choice, as well as so many others like her, absolutely heroic. I thank our medical team for their care and focus.”
“All I want for is for her to have a long and healthy life, with myself and our children. This is a happy day for our family,” Pitt added.
Now that’s love!
“I do not feel less of a woman.”
In the powerful piece, written entirely by Jolie, she reflects on her own mother’s death after developing ovarian cancer at the age of 56 and writes that her children had “asked if the same thing could happen to me.” Jolie carries the same BRCA1 gene of her mother, which means she not only had an 87 percent risk of developing breast cancer, but also has a 50 percent chance of getting ovarian cancer.
Jolie proactively decided to take an extreme preventative measure of getting her breasts surgically removed. Here, she tells her story:
MY MOTHER fought cancer for almost a decade and died at 56. She held out long enough to meet the first of her grandchildren and to hold them in her arms. But my other children will never have the chance to know her and experience how loving and gracious she was.
We often speak of “Mommy’s mommy,” and I find myself trying to explain the illness that took her away from us. They have asked if the same could happen to me. I have always told them not to worry, but the truth is I carry a “faulty” gene, BRCA1, which sharply increases my risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
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.
Only a fraction of breast cancers result from an inherited gene mutation. Those with a defect in BRCA1 have a 65 percent risk of getting it, on average.
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.
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.
My own process began on Feb. 2 with a procedure known as a “nipple delay,” which rules out disease in the breast ducts behind the nipple and draws extra blood flow to the area. This causes some pain and a lot of bruising, but it increases the chance of saving the nipple.
Two weeks later I had the major surgery, where the breast tissue is removed and temporary fillers are put in place. The operation can take eight hours. You wake up with drain tubes and expanders in your breasts. It does feel like a scene out of a science-fiction film. But days after surgery you can be back to a normal life.
Nine weeks later, the final surgery is completed with the reconstruction of the breasts with an implant. There have been many advances in this procedure in the last few years, and the results can be beautiful.
Jolie never fails to amaze me, what a strong woman! To read the rest of Jolie’s emotional story, click here.