Angelina Jolie: A Woman Off The Fence

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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?


  1. I’m sure it wasn’t an easy decision and I commend her for making it. I think it’s in everyone’s nature to judge others but this is a different way of looking at that.

  2. Beautifully said. Angelina made a decision she felt was best for her. Even had she made this decision without the research and information she gathered, it’s still her choice. We have the choice to ignore the news and weblinks if we choose. We also havfe the choice to commend her courage not only for the procedure but to speak openly about it.

  3. I think the real problem with judging is that we are only seeing a brief snapshot of another person’s existence and assuming that’s all they are. That person that thoughtlessly cut you off while driving and talking on the phone may be getting news that a family member is in the hospital. She could be a person who is always courteous and considerate driver but had a second of inattention due to a personal tragedy (she maybe and even better driver than you). That mom who snaps at her kids may be a saint with endless patience but had a momentary lapse because her hungry kids are screaming in the store and she cannot leave without food for them (more than likely she snapped because of your rude and judging looks when her kids first started acting up). The kid who eats fluff on white bread for lunch every day may eat the healthiest breakfast, dinners, and snacks at home but mom send him with those sandwiches because it’s all he’ll eat and she doesn’t want him to go hungry at school (he may even eat healthier than your child overall).

    I have really been making it a point to stop judging others. When I start judging, I make myself think something to the contrary like what I wrote in the parentheses above because ultimately none of us has a clue about what’s really the best way to live life and we certainly don’t know what another person’s life is like by watching them for a fraction of it. I know there have been moments in my life that I’ve behaved badly only to regret it later and have been so thankful no one was there to witness it!

    I also think becoming comfortable with our own choices means we don’t have to put down others who make different life choices. I think judging really comes from a place of insecurity and when we put down others, we are really trying to validate our own choices. If we’re confident in ourselves, we have the tendency to support and encourage other people’s choices because they don’t threaten our own.

  4. Erica I couldn’t have said it better than you! I completely agree, and actually when I see that toddler flipping out everywhere you go, I always smile at the mom and say, been there done that! I usually always get a relief smile in return. Those mommy’s are far from the first to ever have a toddler have a tantrum in public.

    I commend Angelina for thinking of her children and herself! My baby sister wishes she had had a double mastectomy when she only took the one. We will be celebrating her 10th year anniversary breast cancer free this summer when she turns 50 years old! Always in the back of her head when she goes to Memorial Sloan Kettering for her yearly exams the fear is always there. If she would have taken both her breast there would be no more fear.. The thought at the time of keeping one real breast was very overwhelming and her decision, it is a very hard decision to make when you are grieving for your life and the battle ahead to survive the cancer beast!

    My baby sister is an amazing “BREAST CANCER SLAYER” and a hero to me! Never ever judge someone with a cancer diagnosis, their life and your life do not walk the same path in the same pair of shoes..

    Bravo Angelina!

    Yet again very inspiring Erica!

    Thank Michele

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