Well, it turns out that Angelina Jolie and I have something in common. No, I have not become rich, famous or hot, but we now both have had double mastectomies. If we ever get together over coffee, we can talk about our implants and how nice it is to never have to wear a bra again. There's an interesting editorial that she's written in the New York Times this week; take a look:
I read it with a level of interest in the details that someone who has not had a mastectomy might miss. I was interested to learn, for example, that doctors were able to save the nipple and areola area. She had them tested for cancer and found that they were cancer-free. This will certainly give her a much more natural cosmetic result. While plastic surgeons can do some impressive nipple reconstruction, my own experience is that it doesn't look or feel like the real thing. She will also benefit from not having had radiation therapy. I had radiation on my right side and I am fortunate to be able to have an implant there. My right side is a bit lumpy and a little too firm because it was radiated. Still, I'm grateful that it didn't become infected and my body didn't reject it. With my clothes on, I look normal and well-proportioned.
I know that there is some controversy surrounding the decision for a cancer-free woman having a mastectomy as a preventive measure. I recently read another NYT magazine article questioning the practice of routinely performing lumpectomies and radiation therapy on women with non-invasive, early-stage DCIS and I think the authors make a very good point. If I were in Angelina's shoes, though, I think I would make the same decision that she made. Her mother died from breast cancer, she is positive for the breast cancer gene, she has a very high chance of having breast cancer and this risk increases as she gets older. If she were 23 years old, perhaps she might wait to have the preventive mastectomy, but certainly not in her mid-40's. It's a no-brainer to me.
I was also interested to hear that Brad Pitt, her husband (at least, I think they are married), has been encouraging and supportive. It doesn't sound like he's planning to leave her for someone younger and with perfect breasts. I hope this turns out to be true, as he would be a great role model in this regard for other men who's wives have mastectomies. My husband, Stuart, once read that two-thirds of marriages end when the wife has breast cancer.
I hope that Angelina writes more about her experience. In the editorial, she said all the "right" things, but it sounded like something that a public relations executive with the Komen Foundation would write as opposed to a woman candidly sharing a very personal story. Perhaps Angelina isn't ready to do that yet. I certainly respect her choice in this regard. I'm simply thankful that she was willing to share it.