Angelina Jolie Bravely Undergoes Double Mastectomy for Her Kids and for Her Mom

Celebrity supermom announces that she had preventive surgery after her mother died of cancer

Posted by Natalie Zutter

No one saw this coming: Yesterday morning, celebrity mom role model Angelina Jolie published an op-ed in the New York Times announcing that she had undergone a preventive double mastectomy. After losing her mother Marcheline Bertrand to cancer and learning that she carried the “faulty” BRCA1 gene, Angelina decided that the best decision for her--and for her kids--was to eliminate her risk for breast and ovarian cancer as much as possible.

She’s not the first celebrity to do so: Christina Applegate was the first celebrity to publicly talk about her double mastectomy in 2008, and Giuliana Rancic did the same in 2011. Of course, because Angelina is an A-lister and for many a role model for being Supermom, it comes as an even greater shock. There will perhaps always be a debate about whether this is preventive or paranoid, but that’s not what this is about. I’m simply highlighting her choice and the reasoning behind it.

Reasoning that certainly checks out: Angelina opens the essay explaining that Marcheline (who died at the age of 56) met only the first of her blood-related grandchildren, Shiloh Jolie-Pitt, born in 2006. (Of course, she had already met Angelina’s adopted children Maddox and Zahara.) “But my other children will never have the chance to know her and experience how loving and gracious she was,” Angelina writes, referring to Pax and twins Knox and Vivienne.

What most astounds me about this story--as a former full-time celebrity blogger--is that Angelina was able to “get away” with the three months of prep leading up to the procedure without anyone finding out. How the paparazzi never caught photos of her leaving the Pink Lotus Breast Center--or partner Brad Pitt joining her--is beyond me. I wouldn’t be surprised if they paid off the photographers. At any rate, I’m glad that they were able to experience this difficult months-long process in private.

In fact, Angelina waited until after she’d had the reconstructive surgery--”the results can be beautiful,” she says--to announce it. So even though fans will be scrutinizing her cleavage at her next big awards show, she waited until everything was “back to normal” to reveal the surgery. It’s the same for how she describes interacting with her kids post-surgery:

It is reassuring that they see nothing that makes them uncomfortable. They can see my small scars and that’s it. Everything else is just Mommy, the same as she always was. And they know that I love them and will do anything to be with them as long as I can. On a personal note, I do not feel any less of a woman. I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity.

Of course, the one troublesome point here--which Angelina addresses--is that she can easily afford the $3,000 test to screen for BRCA1 and BRCA2. Many women cannot. The changes to our healthcare system to afford more women this chance have very little to do with a celebrity’s radical choice, but perhaps she’ll give this issue some more positive visibility.


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