I had a mastectomy before it was cool…#hipstersofmastectomies @AngelinaJolie

My Medical Choice by Angelina Jolie

Last night, actress Angelina Jolie went public in the New York Times with her decision to undergo a prophylactic mastectomy. She revealed she carries a BRCA1 mutation, and that her mother passed away from cancer at the age of 56.

In her piece, Angelina writes about her children wanting to know if she would succumb to the same fate as her mother. She talks about the cancer risk associated with her BRCA mutation and the various steps of the surgery. These sentiments are all familiar to any woman who carries a hereditary breast and ovarian cancer risk, but what resonated with me the most in her writing was this:

But I am writing about it now because I hope that other women can benefit from my experience. Cancer is still a word that strikes fear into people’s hearts, producing a deep sense of powerlessness. But today it is possible to find out through a blood test whether you are highly susceptible to breast and ovarian cancer, and then take action.

Thank you, Angelina, for sharing your story. Every time a woman is brave enough to open up about her experience with hereditary cancer–from Angelina Jolie to Giuliana Rancic to Christina Applegate to my dear friend Trisha to ME!–there is limitless potential for making a difference. How many women will opt for BRCA testing because of Angelina Jolie? How many high-risk women will be more inclined to consider preventative surgery? Even if just one woman takes action, Angelina Jolie’s revelation will be worth it.

You go, girl. Thank you for joining the ranks of selfess women who have opened up about their mastectomies.

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A reflection on Mother’s Day

I woke up this morning thinking about my mom and everything she’s given to me. She gave me heart-shaped chocolate cakes every year on my birthday. She gave me hand-sewn Halloween costumes, from the Little Mermaid to Marilyn Monroe. She gave me Harry Potter books, shipped to me at summer camp on the day they came out.

She gave me a love for painting and a thirst for writing. She gave me the drive to make everything I do just a bit more special. She gave me confidence.

She gave me blue eyes. She gave me hips. She gave me big feet.

She gave me a BRCA gene mutation.

textfrommom

“I have always wanted to give you everything and it makes me sick that i gave you something so awful without even knowing it. i love u babe.”

That was the text my mom sent me on October 25, 2011, after I told her over the phone that I had tested positive for the BRCA mutation. We had gone out to lunch earlier that day; I knew the results during lunch, but I couldn’t muster the courage to tell her. So I waited until that evening.

I guess she was right; she did give me “something so awful.” But she didn’t intentionally give it to me…she didn’t handpick my genes. It just happened.

And you know what? Whatever. It’s awful, she’s right, but in a way…it’s not.

She gave me a BRCA gene mutation, because one of her parents gave it to her. But by testing for the mutation and sharing her results with me, she gave me an extra shot at life, too.

Without her positive test result, I would have never heard of the BRCA genes, and I would have never been tested. What could that have meant for me in the future? Well, my mother has had breast cancer twice because of her BRCA mutation, so you do the math.

She gave me a BRCA gene mutation, but she also gave me the ability to control something about my future.

It’s Mother’s Day, and I feel fortunate to have such a wonderful mother. I love to see the universal appreciation for moms. Moms are awesome.

I hope that no other BRCA-positive (or genetic mutation-positive) mothers ever feel guilty the way my mom did when she found out about my mutation. It was heartbreaking to read that text, to know that my mom felt as if she had done something to hurt me. My mom has given me and continues to give me so much–surely this one hiccup could do nothing to diminish a lifetime of love.

Happy Mother’s Day, everyone.