Too much excitement just might kill me!
Last night I learned about Angelina’s choice to have a double mastectomy. The courage in that decision blows me away – doubly so her decision to share her choice openly and raise awareness about cancer. Not only is it important to encourage people to find a cure, it is also important to let people know that cancer is not always a death sentence any more. She is an incredible woman.
I think what she did is very extreme. Lets not quibble here – essentially, she paid someone to cut off both her breasts. I have no history of breast cancer in my family, so it is unlikely I carry the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. But if I did, and I was done having children, I would have the surgery as soon as I could book in (a luxury that I’m sure many women will be denied due to the cost of treatment, but that’s a whole other issue). And I’m a big scaredy cat, so that’s really saying something!
Her chances of developing breast cancer were so high, and this series of procedures has dropped it significantly. Had she developed breast cancer, she most likely would have needed a double mastectomy anyway, under much worse circumstances. I have no doubt that the process was stressful and frightening, but at least this way it was on her own terms, without the horror if discovering a lump, without the dreadful wait for diagnosis, the desperate hope that you’ve caught it before it spread.
And not only would actually developing cancer mean she would have needed the surgeries, there would most likely have been chemotherapy and radiation as well, each of which have a host of potential side effects including heart damage, hearing loss and increased risk of (more) cancer (awesome huh?). Even after successful treatment, there’s the never ending worry that it will one day come back.
I think Angelina’s choice was very brave, and very wise. I think it’s incredible that medical science has advanced so far that this is now an option! But of course I wish there were a better way, something less drastic. I hope one day we can take a simple pill filled with nanobots that are designed to clean up any and all cancer cells in the body – no pain, no side effects, just a nice clean sweep. But until then we need people to keep putting it out there so that others know what their options really are.
And if you have a family history of breast cancer and you’re not sure you want to know? I say find out. Sure it’s scary. But discovering you have cancer is worse than finding out that you might get it. Treatment while you’re healthy is less stressful for you and your family, recovery is faster, than treatment when you’re sick, undergoing chemotherapy, and afraid you’re going to die. Take a moment and really think about it.
Now go spread the word.
Bravo Angelina, bravo.