Angelina Jolie’s decision to have a double mastectomy – and then go public – is a brave one.
When breast cancer patients have to have such surgery, many struggle with it.
Even though they know it’s necessary to save their life, the loss can be devastating. One woman once told me she felt as if she’d lost her femininity. The one thing that clearly made her a woman had gone.
This was several years ago, before re-constructive surgery was as good as it is today, and many women decided against implants.
So the thought of a woman deliberately having her breasts removed seemed alien to some.
I interviewed a Medway woman about 16 years ago, who made exactly the same decision as Angelina after discovering she too carried the faulty BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene.
She had watched as several female relatives were diagnosed with breast cancer. Some had died.
She did not want to suffer the same fate so decided to have both her breasts removed. It’s a brave decision now, but back then it was unheard of.
As a curvaceous, beautiful woman, it was never going to be an easy decision, but it wasn’t one she had dwelled over for long. A life without breasts and fear was far better than a lifetime of worry.
If she could cut her chances of developing the disease – knowing there was an extremely high risk she would, one day, fall victim to it – she was going to do whatever she could to do that.
She was confident in her decision but recognised that some wouldn’t understand. But it was her decision, her body, and her future in her hands.
I thought at the time it was incredibly brave of her to talk publicly about why she’d done it, but if her interview encouraged one more woman to check her breasts, and save a life, it was worth it.
And Angelina knows that too.