Newspapers, women’s magazines, websites, news sites, and cancer groups and organisations have been abuzz with the announcement made by the movie star and director, through an op-ed to the New York Times last Tuesday.
… I carry a “faulty” gene, BRCA1, which sharply increases my risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
My doctors estimated that I had an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer, although the risk is different in the case of each woman.
Only a fraction of breast cancers result from an inherited gene mutation. Those with a defect in BRCA1 have a 65 percent risk of getting it, on average.
Once I knew that this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much I could. I made a decision to have a preventive double mastectomy.
It seems everyone has an opinion, and most, thankfully praise the star for her honesty, openness and courage in dealing with such an issue.
Her partner, fiancé and father of their children, actor Brad Pitt, described her as ‘heroic’ as every partner/husband would. However, this term seemed to hit a nerve with one Northern Territory Minister Willem Westra van Holthe. The minister tweeted:
I’m afraid Willem Westra van Holthe, you have entirely missed the point.
Angelina Jolie is heroic, as are the hundreds of thousands of women – mothers, wives and daughters who undergo this surgery and the millions of people also battling cancer at any one time. They are all heroic. Just because Angelina Jolie is a household name, does not make her any less heroic Mr. Westra van Holthe.
How Angelina’s story and announcement does differ from the story of an everyday woman is that she has a broad and well respected platform to share her experience. She has given women facing similar situations a voice.
Her status as ‘celebrity’ means that this is worldwide news. It means that women experiencing a similar decision process will be empowered and inspired and give them courage. They will feel less alone. It will go a long way to dispelling the stigma that surrounds such a procedure – for not only women – but men too dealing with the situation in their family.
The gravity of Angelina’s story is only just a ripple right now, but it will indeed be a wave of change, awareness and inspiration that is sorely needed.
So yes Angelina Jolie, you are brave, courageous, inspiring and indeed heroic.