just a mom figuring it out one day at a time

Angelina Jolie Preventive Double Mastectomy- Wow

The news of Angelina Jolie’s preventive double mastectomy this morning shocked me.

Not in a bad way, just really surprised. I guess when you are dealing with a superstar with a killer body and flawless skin it’s hard to remember that at the end of the day she is just like the rest of us.

I’ve witnessed portions of Angelina’s journey- not with her but with my cousin and another very close friend. Years before that, it was my mother in-law and before that my grandmother. In these cases there was evidence of cancer which in turn led to decisions to proactively remove the second breast.  These were not easy decisions to make, nor live through, and I cannot begin to explain my profound respect for the women in my family and my friend. I applaud their resolve to tackle cancer so that they could more fully live their lives.

What would you do if you knew you had over an 80% chance of developing breast cancer? Or what if you were told that there was a “concerning area” in your breast?

I have not been tested for the BRCA1 gene, but did have a small area “of concern” show up on my mammogram. Without hesitation, I wanted a biopsy. I couldn’t sit around and wait to see if it morphed into something more definitive. I had to know.

Just prior to New Year’s Eve 2011, I went in for a biopsy and had a beautiful marker the size of a grain of rice inserted into my breast. Battered and bruised I came home and tried to be positive.  In the days between the biopsy and receiving the results, my husband and I discussed what would happen next, in the event that I did have cancer.  Looking at my children, I knew, for me, that there was only one choice.  I would address both breasts, including the one that wasn’t cancerous.

Fortunately for me it turned out to be nothing and I didn’t have to do anything else.  But, I think I came through that experience wiser.  Because the hypothetical had the real possibility of becoming my reality, I had to work through the decision making process. A process that was aided in part by having witnessed the women close to me, who faced similar issues, make the decision to be proactive.

The decision that Angelina made wouldn’t be necessarily the right one for everyone.  In some ways, reading Angelina’s letter made me wonder if she perhaps minimized some of the intensity involved, or maybe it was minimized because of her resources-resources that may not be available to the average person.

My cousin Catheryn Brockett hits on this beautifully in her blog, Cancercation, today. If you get a chance I would read it. Not just because she’s my cousin, but because it is real. And honest. And from a perspective of someone living in LA, who has faced breast cancer and even as someone who has had the opportunity to be treated by the same facility that Angelina went to.

All of this aside, I do applaud the fact that Angelina made public her journey because in some small way the more women share, the greater acceptance there is and the more empowered women are to make informed decisions.

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