Angelina Jolie announced on Sunday, via a piece in the New York Times
, that she has undergone double mastectomy surgery as a preventative measure against breast cancer.
Her decision to undergo this radical surgery, while she is cancer free, was based on a gene she inherited from her mother, which increased her own risk of cancer. She watched her mother fight cancer for ten years, until it finally took her life. Angelina, with the knowledge she had this pre-disposition, made the choice to rid her self of the breast tissue that could, with over an 80% possibility, become cancerous.
The article is well written, poignant, and explained how the decision was “easy,” considering the circumstances. Angelina’s mother died of breast cancer at 56 years of age, and Angelina herself tested positive for the BRCA1 gene. This gene increases the risk of developing breast cancer by over 60% on average, although the likelihood varies from carrier to carrier (Jolie’s doctors estimated her increased risk at 87%.)
If I were to have the same familial history, and I tested positive for this gene, I would have a double mastectomy as well.
But I don’t make my living as a sex symbol/actress/siren/symbol of feminine guile. My career is not directly related to how good I look, (thank heavens, or I’d be broke.) One’s own personal reconsideration of how one might look, reconciling a personal idea of “ womanly” without breasts, all of that is a very private internal, emotional process. I can’t imagine how being a huge sex symbol, a woman whose public identity is so directly linked with her gorgeous face and knock out body, would feel about the removal of and reconstruction of her very famous breasts.
Will she be under a scrutiny, physically, that most women don’t have to even consider when making this decision? Hollywood does not like aging or sickness. Will the press do “before and after” photos in a tasteful, supportive way? (And you know they are going to do those photos…) I certainly hope they help celebrate her decision, and are not ugly and destructive with their images.
For Angelina to write as openly and plainly as she did about gaining the peace of mind to raise her children without specter of cancer in her life, and underscore that she was happy to be able to make this decision, was empowering to all women who face this decision. Going beyond that, as a sex symbol, she is redefining what it is to be strong and beautiful, and showing the world it has nothing to do with image or outward appearance.
Whether or not you are a fan, whether or not you like her as an actress, or a world ambassador, or as a mother, you cannot deny the grace with which she has handled this crossroad in her life.
Read the full piece that appeared in the NY Times
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