Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Getting Deep on Hump Day

Yes I do realize that post title sounds a little dirty - it's my attempt at keeping this from getting too serious.

My family has a very very very strong history of breast cancer.  When I say strong - I mean both my maternal and paternal grandmothers were diagnosed in their lifetime. On top of that, my Mom was initially diagnosed when she was only 35 years old. When it comes to cancer and many other diseases, family history can be a curse. I've known that breast cancer is very prevalent in my family since I was old enough to understand that. And now that I'm 24, I've become increasingly more aware and cautious because, more recently, woman are being diagnosed at younger ages.
When I actually think about that, it seems like the odds are not really in favor of myself or my sister. We have a strong family history against us. Our doctor recommends getting annual mammograms starting at 25. These days, they say it's all about early detection, but if you carry the "faulty" gene and your chances are pretty high (as in above 80%) then you'd be constantly living in a paranoid state.

If you watched the news or surfed any of the major news websites yesterday, you know why I'm bringing this up today. The very brave Angelina Jolie wrote an op-ed entitled My Medical Choice in the NY Times to share with the world her choice to undergo a double mastectomy after she found out she had the "faulty" BRCA1 gene. Because she had this gene mutation, inherited from her mother, her chance of developing breast cancer in the future was 87% and ovarian cancer, 50%. She decided to be proactive, and rather than living in constant fear, she chose to go ahead and have the preventative major surgery, which brought her chances for breast cancer in the future down to 5%.
Since this news broke yesterday, I've come across quite a few different responses to the Angelina's choice. Some people are attacking her, saying it's too radical, and even going as far as to claim she only did this because she has the money to. That being said, the BRCA test can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars and in many cases is not covered by insurance. However, if you had a family history of breast cancer, don't you think that money would be worth it to know your chances?

My feelings towards it, and these are my opinions...

1.) It's her body and a very personal choice, and anyone criticizing her for it is just an asshole.
2.) As someone who has first hand experience of the wrath that breast cancer can have, I think she 100% made the right decision. I completely respect her for it. She has 6 children to raise and who can blame her for wanting to cut her chances of getting cancer to hopefully live a longer life. If you found out that you had an 87% chance of getting breast cancer in the future, would you just sit around, worry, and wait? Or would you take matters into your own hands and give cancer a big F you?
3.) I feel really thankful that she used her celebrity status and her voice to educate woman who might not have known about the BRCA1 gene before. I admire her so much for that. I tried to think about her as just a regular woman out of the spotlight, this wasn't an easy decision for her to make. A double mastectomy isn't a simple little procedure, but it's one that could ultimately have saved her life. She chose to share something really personal in hopes that it would inspire others to have the same bravery and to also be proactive.
Since the beginning of the year, my Mom has been planning to get the BRCA test done this coming summer. She wants to do it for my sister and I. The information pamphlet has been hanging on our fridge for quite some time. It's not a simple process, and it's also not cheap. However, since breast cancer is no stranger to my family, I want to know if I too carry the gene mutation, BRCA1. If I do? Well I'll go from there.

In the meantime, I'll be thankful knowing that there are woman as brave as Angelina using her power to bring awareness to this cause. I'll find comfort in the fact that there are always more options coming to be (double mastectomy wasn't covered by insurance when my Mom was first diagnosed). And I'll continue to have hope that one day I won't have to fear having to fight the same battle that my Mom and Grandmothers did. What I do know, if I were to find out that my chances were 87%, you can bet I'll be taking every initiative to ensure that breast cancer doesn't touch me. We've seen enough of it in my family!

Linking up with Shanna!


  1. I'm so happy you weighed in on this! I fully support Angeline Jolie's decision to do it. There are people..ahem..Elisabeth Hasselback...who think that she's just doing it because she had the money and that it's setting a poor example for people who cannot afford it. But in every other situation, do we make decisions based upon our money situation? Like, I'm sure when Elisabeth goes to get a coffee she doesn't justify it by saying "Gosh, I'm so lazy I don't feel like brewing a pot of coffee, I have the money, I'll go buy one." NO! You see the need and you address it.

    Sorry I'm rambling, but I really do love this post.

  2. I agree fully with this post. The fact that people are judging her for being proactive really makes me sad. I personally would rather live without breast now knowing that my chances of cancer are lowered rather then wait to have the procedure done because if I don't the cancer WILL kill me, and might still even after having the procedure. I am fortunate that this does not seem to happen in my family but I still think this is a very important woman's issue and needs to be addressed.

  3. This is such a great post. I don't really understand how people can criticize her for taking proactive measures to protect herself and her family. I support her decision 100%.

  4. I hate, hate, hate cancer. I lost both of my grandparents to it and now my aunt is fighting breast cancer. So far, so good. But still, it's a tough fight. I completely support Angelina Jolie's decision and can't believe people would actually attack her. Assholes indeed. And if I found out I had the faulty gene, you bet I'd be getting a double mastectomy too. I don't think protecting your life is "drastic".

    Hope your mom is doing well.

  5. I agree with what you wrote and with Angelina Jolie's decision. We make the best decisions for ourselves and for our families. It is so sad that even while doing something so brave, motivational and inspiring there are others judging her negatively for it. And if I were in her position, well, I would have done the very same thing.


  6. I wrote about this in my blog today too! I don't understand the people who criticize her. The criticism that I have read completely lacks evidence and reason, and just goes to show how dumb people can be.
    XO, Rachel
    With Love, Rachel

  7. A very brave post! Thank you for sharing your experience and thoughts on a very difficult issue!

  8. Thank you for saying this. I've loved her long before the Brad Pitt-Jen Aniston saga. She's an amazing actress and philanthropist. I'm so glad she shared her story with the world. She's very brave. You're right. Anyone who thinks differently is just an asshole.