There has been a real buzz this week as Angelina Jolie announced her drastic decision to have a double mastectomy as a preventative measure because of her high chances of getting breast cancer.
Kudos to her for speaking up. She didn’t have to, she could have done all this privately and quietly and no one would have known. But she didn’t and as a result, this difficult decision has become one discussed in many households, opening up the dialogue on what you would do under these circumstances and perhaps encouraging other women to have the genetic testing done, or to make the decision to follow in Angelina’s footsteps.
It is never a simple decision. I know, because it is one that I made eight years ago. In my instance I’d had breast cancer at 39, but when it returned fifteen years later, I chose to have both breasts removed, including the healthy one.
As I said to a friend at the time, “I wanted a level playing field.” And to be honest I felt I could live with the changes to my body much more easily if both breasts were gone. Now I did not opt for the reconstructive surgery, partly because of my age but also because I’d had my share of surgeries and procedures over the years, and enough was enough.
Like Angelina, I chose to speak up. I was running Company of Women and I felt I had a responsibility to tell my members, as I wanted to encourage them to go for the mammograms and not put it off. True to form, I drew on my humour to get myself through this emotional declaration. I told the women that I wanted to be “upfront with them” and make a “clean breast” of what was happening with me, and lastly that as a weight loss strategy, it sucked. Breasts don’t weigh much, so that was a bit disappointing.
There were tears that night, and laughter too and the realization that breast cancer isn’t the death sentence that it used to be. And eight years later, I am still here to tell the tale.
I also went for the genetic testing, because my mother had had breast cancer too, but they found no link and as the mother of two daughters, I was relieved.
So as I hear the discussions on the radio and TV, I applaud Angelina for taking this stand.by Anne Day