Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Jolie and Me

Two years ago, when Angelina Jolie brought national attention to women who are BRCA mutation positive by writing "My Medical Choice" in the New York Times, I was just beginning to think seriously about getting my own prophylactic mastectomy and reconstruction. After reading Angelina's thoughtful and brave article, I was filled with gratitude. It felt like the world had given me a strange but very meaningful gift. A beautiful, confident celebrity the same age as me had JUST gone through the same surgery I planned to go through, and she was really PROUD of her decision.

Five weeks ago today, I went through my own nine hour prophylactic surgery, reducing my risk of getting breast cancer by around 90%. 

The morning of my surgery, I was not fearful. I had been anxious in the weeks leading up to my surgery, but as I entered the hospital, filled out the paperwork, and got my IV, I was very calm. I know it may sound strange, but I thought A LOT about Angelina Jolie that morning. In my head and heart, I felt connected to her. I felt brave, and confident, and clear in my decision. I felt PROUD of what I was doing, just as I had imagined she had felt.

In the five weeks that have passed since my surgery, I have not had a single moment of regret or doubt. Not a SINGLE moment. I am so proud of my decision, and I know I made the exact right decision for me. 

Now, having the bulk of the mastectomy, reconstruction, and recovery behind me, I have just begun seriously thinking about and planning the timeline for my oophorectomy. I know I need to get it done. My doctors have urged (almost begged) me to do it. My maternal great grandmother died of colon cancer, and four of her sisters died of gynecological cancers. My grandmother and mother both had oophorectomies, too. There is no doubt that this too will be the right decision for me, if I want to try and live and see my children grow into adults.

But it doesn't make getting the surgery done any easier. 

So when I heard, today, about Angelina Jolie's decision to get an salpingo-oophorectomies, I again felt like the world had given me a gift. I again felt indebted to this woman I have never met, but feel very connected to, by virtue of our shared genetic mutation, our shared decisions to be proactive, and our ability to be PROUD of our choices.

Angelina Jolie's article is beautiful and truthful. It is not about being self-pitying or self-aggrandizing. It is about gaining knowledge, and using that knowledge to make powerful decisions, so that you can be proud of the decisions you make.

Thank you, again, Angelina Jolie, for sharing your journey with the world, and for being PROUD of your decisions. It makes it that much easier for other women, like me, to share and be proud, too.