I just had to write in my blog today. I was playing tennis this morning at the Olympus Hills courts that are right below my house and kept looking at Mount Olympus covered in green foliage with a bit of snow hanging on to the peaks and felt this surge of amazement. I feel so lucky to be healthy, happy and alive. Yesterday, as I switched on the radio news in my car, I heard about Angelina Jolie‘s mastectomy and then her inherited BRCA 1 gene. Later that night, I pulled up the article she wrote in the New York Times called My Medical Choice. I loved how she wrote the article and talked about all these things that matter such as children, health, and being able to make informed decisions that affect your entire life. She talked about having a supportive partner and feelings and emotions related to this gene. She explains: “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.”
She goes on to describe a bit about the procedure, surgery and then final surgery with reconstruction. She talked about how her children look at what she is going through. She says: “I wanted to write this to tell other women that the decision to have a mastectomy was not easy. But it is one I am very happy that I made. My chances of developing breast cancer have dropped from 87 percent to under 5 percent. I can tell my children that they don’t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer.
It is reassuring that they see nothing that makes them uncomfortable. They can see my small scars and that’s it. Everything else is just Mommy, the same as she always was. And they know that I love them and will do anything to be with them as long as I can. On a personal note, I do not feel any less of a woman. I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity.”
Her final words are: “Life comes with many challenges. The ones that should not scare us are the ones we can take on and take control of.”
As a fellow BRCA 1 gener, I know I would have taken this action to prevent cancer from forming in my breasts of ovaries as prophylactic surgery. That’s because I am proactive and get right in there and get things done. But I do remember years ago, hearing about this inherited gene and about having all your breast tissue removed and thinking that I was so grateful that I did not have that gene. Little did I know what was in my future. I didn’t have any female relatives with breast cancer at that time and my sister Lynne did not test positive for the gene. It’s strange how this gene became such a large part of my life and was hidden for so many years.
But I’m grateful for Angeline Jolie for coming forward with this news and being such a great example to others showing that you can live with an inherited, dangerous gene.