Angelina Jolie: A Woman Off The Fence
Cheers to this lady and her courage and braveness on sharing so openly and candidly with the world in hopes of both spreading awareness and saving her own life.
… Then two weeks ago I got a call from my doctor with blood-test results. “Your CA-125 is normal,” he said. I breathed a sigh of relief. That test measures the amount of the protein CA-125 in the blood, and is used to monitor ovarian cancer. I have it every year because of my family history.
But that wasn’t all. He went on. “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.
In my case, the Eastern and Western doctors I met agreed that surgery to remove my tubes and ovaries was the best option, because on top of the BRCA gene, three women in my family have died from cancer. My doctors indicated I should have preventive surgery about a decade before the earliest onset of cancer in my female relatives. My mother’s ovarian cancer was diagnosed when she was 49. I’m 39.
Last week, I had the procedure: a laparoscopic bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy. There was a small benign tumor on one ovary, but no signs of cancer in any of the tissues.
I have a little clear patch that contains bio-identical estrogen. A progesterone IUD was inserted in my uterus. It will help me maintain a hormonal balance, but more important it will help prevent uterine cancer. I chose to keep my uterus because cancer in that location is not part of my family history.
It is not possible to remove all risk, and the fact is I remain prone to cancer. I will look for natural ways to strengthen my immune system. I feel feminine, and grounded in the choices I am making for myself and my family. I know my children will never have to say, “Mom died of ovarian cancer.”
Regardless of the hormone replacements I’m taking, I am now in menopause. I will not be able to have any more children, and I expect some physical changes. But I feel at ease with whatever will come, not because I am strong but because this is a part of life. It is nothing to be feared.” –Angelina Jolie.
To read Angelina’s full entry in The New York Times, click here.
I’ve read some pretty weird remarks online, such as – “So, will we all just start cutting off our breasts and ovaries even when there is a proven lack of cancer?”
Firstly, let’s look to the surgeons and experts, most of who concur that she made the right decision. Women who have Angelina’s BRCA mutation have a much higher risk of developing ovarian cancer—increased from the average 1.7 percent to 50 percent. Family history is also first and foremost the easiest determinate in your risk of cancer. (Karen H. Lu, M.D., director of the High Risk Ovarian Cancer Screening Clinic at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and member of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).
But all this talk on ‘should she have,’ or ‘shouldn’t she have’ made me think of something else, altogether. It made me think about judging. Judging others. We often do it. We judge that mother who goes back to work “too soon” after she gives birth to her baby. We judge that woman for staying with her husband after he cheats on her. We judge the woman who loses her cool with her kid in the grocery store. We judge that woman for being 50 pounds overweight.
Why do we judge?
Does it make us feel better than the other person? Does it lift us up to put someone else down? I think it does. In fact, I know it does.
So, if I can leave you with anything today, Angelina or otherwise, it’s about the lesson of compassion and empathy. Instead of judging someone for their decisions, perhaps opt to give them a smile, a nod, let them know that you HEAR them. That you are THERE for them. At the end of the day, everyone makes decisions that work for them, that fit their lives, and it’s not yours or my business why they make them. Vow to be an ear, a sounding board to someone. We all have reasons for doing the things that maybe you or I wouldn’t do.
So the next time your friend tells you that she’s staying with her husband after he confesses to an affair, or the next time a mom has a meltdown in public, perhaps support her, instead of judge her. Perhaps try and understand her choices.
Just a thought.
What say you?