Back in 2013, Angelina Jolie made the decision to have a double mastectomy due to her family history. She was 37. Two year on, she has now undergone surgery to remove her ovaries as there were the early indications of cancer.
In her diary with The New York Times, the actress said:
"TWO years ago I wrote about my choice to have a preventive double mastectomy. A simple blood test had revealed that I carried a mutation in the BRCA1 gene. It gave me an estimated 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer. I lost my mother, grandmother and aunt to cancer... I wanted other women at risk to know about the options. I promised to follow up with any information that could be useful, including about my next preventive surgery, the removal of my ovaries and fallopian tubes. I had been planning this for some time. It is a less complex surgery than the mastectomy, but its effects are more severe. It puts a woman into forced menopause. So I was readying myself physically and emotionally, discussing options with doctors, researching alternative medicine, and mapping my hormones for estrogen or progesterone replacement. But I felt I still had months to make the date. Then two weeks ago I got a call from my doctor with blood-test results... 'There are a number of inflammatory markers that are elevated, and taken together they could be a sign of early cancer.' I took a pause. 'CA-125 has a 50 to 75 percent chance of missing ovarian cancer at early stages,' he said. He wanted me to see the surgeon immediately to check my ovaries. I went through what I imagine thousands of other women have felt. I told myself to stay calm, to be strong, and that I had no reason to think I wouldn’t live to see my children grow up and to meet my grandchildren."
After going into in depth description of the process, and the reasons behind she chose to do it, Angelina closes the article with:
"I feel deeply for women for whom this moment comes very early in life, before they have had their children. Their situation is far harder than mine. I inquired and found out that there are options for women to remove their fallopian tubes but keep their ovaries, and so retain the ability to bear children and not go into menopause. I hope they can be aware of that. It is not easy to make these decisions. But it is possible to take control and tackle head-on any health issue. You can seek advice, learn about the options and make choices that are right for you. Knowledge is power."
Knowledge is indeed power. And timing is EVERYTHING. Speaking as someone who has several forms of cancer in her family - lung, throat, bone, skin, breast, bowl, leukemia (you name it, we've had it, and died from it due to the ye olde Irish approach of burying one's head in the sand) - Angelina's actions are to be lauded, applauded and replicated wherever possible.
Some people are reacting to her news with "God, women go through this everyday and just because she's a celebrity she gets all this attention." And that's the very reason why she's doing it. She's bringing it to the public forum, she's shining a spotlight on it - she's sparking interest that will hopefully save some lives. That is only ever a good thing.