Two years ago, Angelina Jolie wrote in the New York Times about her preventative double mastectomy and plans to have both ovaries and her fallopian tubes removed after testing positive for the BRCA1 gene. Last week, it was time.
In a new piece in the New York Times, Jolie shares details of her latest surgery following yet another cancer scare.
"I know my children will never have to say, 'Mom died of ovarian cancer,'" Jolie writes of her decision.
Jolie says she'd planned on having her ovaries removed due to her increased cancer risk for some time, but that her hand was forced when a yearly blood test indicated showed signs of early-stage ovarian cancer, the very same type of cancer which killed her mother at the age of 56. (Cancer also killed her grandmother and aunt.)
"She was very soft but could move mountains for her kids," Jolie has said of her late mother, Marcheline Bertrand, who passed away in 2007. "I feel in contact with my mother when I look at my children. I can feel her influence over me then."
Jolie has several times lamented the fact that her mother will not be around to see her own children grow up: "My mother was made to be a grandmother."
"I went through what I imagine thousands of other women have felt," Jolie says of receiving her blood test results. "I told myself to stay calm, to be strong, and that I had no reason to think I wouldn’t live to see my children grow up and to meet my grandchildren."
As Jolie waited for the results of a PET/CT scan last week, she says Brad Pitt flew home from France to be with her and that the two tried to go on with their lives, attending their children's soccer game in Los Angeles.
"The beautiful thing about such moments in life is that there is so much clarity," she shares. "You know what you live for and what matters. It is polarizing, and it is peaceful."
Though all of Jolie's scans turned up clear, she says she decided to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes because cancer has already killed three women in her family.
"I did not do this solely because I carry the BRCA1 gene mutation, and I want other women to hear this," Jolie writes. "A positive BRCA test does not mean a leap to surgery. I have spoken to many doctors, surgeons and naturopaths. There are other options. Some women take birth control pills or rely on alternative medicines combined with frequent checks. There is more than one way to deal with any health issue. The most important thing is to learn about the options and choose what is right for you personally."
Jolie is now in forced menopause and on hormone therapy. She kept her uterus, as uterine cancer is not in her family history, but Jolie, who has six kids with Brad Pitt, will not be able to have any more children, at least not biologically.
"I feel deeply for women for whom this moment comes very early in life, before they have had their children. Their situation is far harder than mine," Jolie sympathizes. "It is not easy to make these decisions. But it is possible to take control and tackle head-on any health issue. You can seek advice, learn about the options and make choices that are right for you. Knowledge is power."
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