Tuesday, May 14, 2013

On Cancer and Angelina Jolie's Bravery

Cancer is one of the scariest words I know. When mentioned, it automatically makes my stomach queezy and instills worry within me. It is often seen as an unpredictable disease that takes control of a person's body in the worst way. The unpredictability of it all probably scares me the most-- that someone can be acting completely normal and healthy one moment and the next be weak and feeble. That's scary.

Today I read an article Angelina Jolie wrote for The New York Times sharing her very personal story with cancer. She outlined how cancer has affected her family, particularly her mother who passed away from the disease, and she talked about something I found surprising -- prevention. Up until two seconds ago, I had no clue that cancer could be prevented. That measures for breast and ovarian cancer could be taken to lower one's risk of the disease.  Apparently, they can. Jolie inherited a mutated gene from her mother which increased her chances of getting breast cancer by 87% and ovarian cancer by 50%.  Because she decided to get tested for the gene mutation, she was able to take fate into her own hands, and get a preventative double mastectomy.  The invasive 3 surgeries left her feeling bruised, but not broken because by doing them, she was able to lower her risk of breast cancer from 87% to less than 4%. How major.

I know mastectomy sounds scary and intense, and there is a fear of losing one's femininity, but I think Angelina is even more the feminine, strong woman for doing this. She was able to let go of any superficiality and think about the needs of her children and her strong desire to stay alive for them.  The amazing part of it all is that she wasn't even told she had cancer; there was still a chance she wouldn't have gotten it. But her life and her life with her children was more important and not worth the risk of potential cancer.

She was brave in her choices, and she was incredibly kind and thoughtful to write about her experience to the public.  I know she's educated tons of people through this article, and I am so glad I was one of them. If you know that breast cancer or ovarian cancer runs in your family, I strongly suggest you try and get tested for the mutated genes mentioned in Jolie's article. 

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