Thursday, 16 May 2013

On Angie's Decision

It's been all over the news over the past few days. Angelia Jolie had a double mastectomy to reduce her risk of getting breast or ovarian cancer, because she was a carrier of the BRCA1  gene.

As soon as this story hit the news, it hit me in the pit of my stomach. Years ago, my parents approached me about getting tested to see if I carry that exact gene. My mom had breast cancer in her 40's.

The feeling that came over me when it was suggested was that it was going to be some kind of death sentence. Which is clearly not the case, but it was how I felt. I turned to one of my closest friends, who is also my go-to for all things oncology, for advice. She explained to me what it meant, and what some of the options were. That same day, I sat down with my mom and we talked about what I would do if I found out that I did carry that gene. I would take my health seriously, I would take care of my body, and I would be aggressive with screenings. So at that point, I decided not to get tested, but also to assume that I probably did carry it.

It's not constantly on my mind, but I have resigned myself to thinking that at some point, I will have to face off with this life-threatening disease. I know it's not the power of positive thinking, but I don't want to be surprised if/when the day comes that I am faced with it.

So back to Angie. I can completely understand why she did it, and I think it's very brave. At the same time, she has the resources to get the best treartment and even have reconstructive surgery. To me, much braver is the woman who chose to have the mastectomy and not have her breasts reconstructed. Will I do it one day? Quite possibly. Do I think this is something all women carrying the gene should sign up for? Not necessarily. It is a good option but just because a celebrity jumps off a bridge doesn't mean that you should.

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