Well Done, Angelina


Like the rest of the world, I woke up yesterday morning to the news that Angelina Jolie had written an OpEd in the New York Times detailing her decision to have a double mastectomy as a precaution against cancer.

I had a lot of thoughts on this one.

I'm not a huge fan of Angelina. I've blogged about her before and I've always been Team Jennifer (Aniston) vs. Team Angelina, BUT I think that what she's done is really commendable. She took control of her body and her health and made some really important decisions. She has a truckload of kids she needs to take care of and she's putting them first and she wants to be around to see her grandkids.

Plus, she got a whole new discussion about breast cancer started and I think any discussion about breast cancer is a good one.

I was disappointed to find out that the test she took to determine she carries the BRCA gene mutation costs $3,000 and is often denied coverage by insurance companies. I know that she's speaking out about her surgery and today she allowed her doctor to share information about her medical treatment. Her doctor indicated that women with a high risk can typically get this test covered. I've been hearing some horror stories of women who have been denied though. I hope the next step is for Angelina to wield her power and take on the insurance companies and pressure them to cover this test.

I was shocked and surprised like everyone else. I'm not sure why, though. It's not like Angelina and I are tight and I see her every day. I don't know why I feel like it was any of my business what Angelina and her boobs have been up to. I was also surprised that she underwent such an invasive surgery. Especially, when she's so well known for her figure. The fact that she would do this and then share her story with the world, tells me that it was not a decision she took lightly.

And then last night, I got pissed. I was trolling around reading stuff on the 'net last night when I stumbled upon tons and tons of assholes who were RIP-ing Angelina's breasts. WTF is wrong with people? First, there were the dickheads mourning Brad's "loss" (as if Angelina's breasts were his property) and then there were the bitches coming out of the wood work blaming Angelina's karma. This sort of thing just infuriates me. It just shows that this world (or maybe it's just Twitter) is populated by idiots and douchebags.

I read today that some doctors are concerned that Angelina's story might encourage more women to have preventative mastectomies that aren't necessary in early stage breast cancers. You know what? These are my breasts and if I have cancer (even early stage) and I want to lop them off so I can sleep better at night knowing that my cancer risks are lowered, then I'll do it. They're not that important to me. My breast don't define me. I believe that Angelina really did her research and figured out a medical plan that was best suited to her. I admire her for empowering other women in the same situation. I'm not a high risk for breast or ovarian cancer, but if I was, you better believe I'd get that test done - even if I had to put it on a credit card.

At the end of all this controversy  I see a mom who cares enough about herself and her family to make a life changing decision that will affect her family and career for the rest of their lives. I applaud her choice and I think she does not deserve a punch in the throat.


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54 comments:

Anonymous said...

I didn't know that people were writing, tweeting and commenting awful things like that. There is something wrong with people.

Nepsi said...

It is not just insurance that is the problem. The company that made the test is fighting for the right to patent genes. They don't want anyone else to provide it at a lower cost.

The Lonesome Jackalope said...

Well said. Adios to the tatas and hello to more living. Not an easy road but it's the right road.

Janine Huldie said...

This time she actually did do something right. I am with you that I was never really a fan of hers after the whole Jen/Brad/Angelina debacle, but I do feel for her and just glad that you she made an educated decision for herself and family.

Chaotic Beauty said...

I'm not a big Angelina fan myself, I think what she did was a good idea and it's HER decision. Something a lot of people just don't get. Too bad there is so much bashing out there on the subject.
What I don't like is seeing the issues with insurance and these tests! Horrible. I think the insurance companies need punched in the throat for sure.

Leslie said...

In my case, my grandmother and mother both had breast cancer, and I have a cousin who was diagnosed at age 24 with breast and ovarian cancer. My mom took the BRCA test after she was through with her year and a half of chemo. If she had tested positive, my sister and I would have been able to take that to the insurance companies and doctors, and my understanding is that the ins company would pay for it then. Thank God that the test came back negative. There is still a high chance that my sister or I will get cancer, but at least it's not a 95% chance like it would be if we carried the BRCA gene.
I love hearing about strong women who take their health into their own hands instead of doing what everybody else thinks they should. Genetic testing should not be taken lightly, but it's definitely a good thing for certain people.

-A- said...

http://www.ngtf.org/
Is a foundation to help people at high risk get the testing covered.

Erin said...

The sad part is these preventative mastectomies will probably SAVE the insurance companies tons of money in the long run because Cancer treatment is very expensive. Unfortunately, it seems like this country's insurance companies are more concerned about treating disease instead of preventative care.

taidyeoriginal said...

life > boobies

Tracy Winslow said...

People that are writing insensitive bullshit like that need a punch in the balls. Then the throat. I'm not a huge Angelina fan - but give her major props for not only undergoing such treatment but then having bravery to talk about it publicly. If it saves one person - it was worth it.

Penelope Lolohea said...

That's so sad that people are being immature about it. I admit that when I turned on the news this morning and they began talking about it, I was like, "why is this news?" But then I began thinking about it, and realized what a brave thing it was for her to do, and how it could potentially help so many women feel more comfortable about making a similar decision. I also really like that she talked about doing it because she wanted to be there for her kids. If nothing else, that deserves an applause.

Penelope Lolohea said...

+1

Jenna Moore said...

There will always be people who only care about looks. They will mourn any change that takes away their eye candy. Let's send them one giant collective punch in the throat.

Becky Hitt said...

The only reason she may actually need a punch is because she is like the 80,00th woman to have this done (preventive breast removal) and the media is acting like she is the one who patented the process. It's great that she is thinking of her health and her family first but there are many other brave women who have already travelled this path.

Adrian said...

I think it might be more the fact insurance companeis are run by idiot men... Did you know most insurance that has a deductible has a list of necessary medication and many make sense. But anti-nausea meds to go with chemo are not on that list... think. ADHD medication is not on that list but wait for it... Viagra is!
Medicating and ADHD can be a hot topic but as a mom to a ADHD kid those meds are the difference between failing and passing school. It was a tough decision. Is it over diagnosed and over medicated yes... but when the diagnosis is real those meds are invaluable. Or maybe my friend's son who was three when he was denied his anti nausea meds for his chemo treatments because they were unnecessary but don't worry Dad you can get your Viagra.
So even though treating disease is BIG business there are idiots making these decisions

Alison Sommer said...

I'm glad I live in a bobble, because if I'd come across some asshole RIP-ing her boobs "in the wild" I'd have a hard time not going into angry feminist somebody-is-wrong-on-the-internet mode. >:(

Amy FunnyIsFamily said...

Angelina Jolie is a complicated public figure. Her behavior can seem impulsive and many people (myself included) have a hard time understanding her choices. However, I think most reasonable people applaud her efforts as a humanitarian, and I am glad she is using this situation to do what she does best: bring attention to situations that, with a concerted focus, can be bettered.

For a post with no throat punching, this one was awesome!

Dilymoa said...

You're right, many others have traveled this road...but, she's opening up to be an advocate. There's nothing more powerful than having a celebrity in your court. Like Jen said, this opens up a whole new dialog.

Dilymoa said...

Also, Jen alluded above...but just to reiterate, everyone carries the BRCA gene. The cancer risk is associated with the BRCA mutation. THAT is what the test is for, to detect the mutation.

Anonymous said...

I have actually been thinking about this a lot today. I know it was a tough decision for her, especially since her mother died of cancer (though I'm not sure it was breast cancer). But let's be clear, she did this as a preventitive measure. She is not a cancer SURVIVOR. She found out she was at risk and decided to remove her breasts on the chance that she might get cancer.

I guess it was a brave decision, and I am sure she gave it a lot of thought, discussed her options with her doctors, but I'm not sure "coming out" about it will save anyone's life. If anything more women may opt to mutilate themselves rather than risk getting a disease that incites crazy, though not unwarranted, fear in everyone who's ever heard the word. And while cancer surely sucks, let's not forget that breast cancer, caught early, and in many of its forms, is highly curable. The treatment is harsh, but so is removing your breasts.

I thought the piece the NYTimes did in their magazine last week raised some interesting points about the issues of breast cancer treatment and awareness. Sure, Angelina's confession may raise awareness of the BRCA mutation, but what the actual effect will be on mortality rates, or even the number of women who develop breast cancer will likely never be known.

Erin Margolin said...

I 've never been an Angelina fan either, so I was really pumped to hear about this. Well done/written, Jen!

allison said...

Correct. I was going to comment that if the test continues to be expensive, and we want insurance companies to cover it, that means that everyone's costs go up to cover those who want the test. I'm not saying that is a bad thing, but that's just what happens whether we like it or not. I actually work for an insurance company and not all of what they do is bad. They need to try to make sure that medical care is not abused, because someone needs to do that. At this stage of the game, with medical costs being so high, they can't just approve everything.

Periwinkle Paisley said...

I can't believe people would think this is a decision that someone would make on a whim. Yeah, it's Angelina Jolie but even for her, "Gee, the whole adopt a foreign kid fad is so five years ago, what can I do to stand out? Oooh, I know! Double radical mastectomy!" She must have been seriously concerned for her health to have this done. I think it's great she is sharing her story to help others. I too respect her a little more after this.

allison said...

Like her or not, for some reason, being a celebrity gets people to notice an issue which is great. And for some reason, I am always reading and getting frustrated with people's reactions to things in online comments, etc. I just don't understand how people can be so close-minded. Either way, it exists. Your post is great though.

GS said...

I will start this comment by stating that I am a hetero-male with high regard for women's breasts. Love them all... Now onto the seriousness of Ms. Jolie's decision. (not sure if she is really married to the 'Brad', don't really care either) Regardless of being a 'fan' of any celebrity, we should all be truly impressed by her decision and hope she continues a crusade to fight for all women to have this choice (for free). It seems like our society only listens to Hollywood for the next big thing anyway. Social status, net worth, age, etc.. should not define whether a woman shall be granted these early detection methods in order to survive. I sound very liberal, but am really a fence walker...

allison said...

And sorry, the only reason I commented was to agree that the cost isn't high just because of the insurance companies. I'm not saying that the test shouldn't be covered for those who are high risk...

RachRiot said...

Christina Applegate (love her) Wanda Sykes (love MORE) and Sharon Osborne all opted for this surgery as well. It would be cool if these kick-ass ladies could use their collective power to change the minds and policies of insurance companies.

YanknFrank said...

I think it's really too bad that she is taking such a drastic measure. There is so much scientific evidence out there proving that diet is the best preventive care against all cancers, and that there is an especially strong association with dairy products and breast cancer. THese studies also show that only 2-3% of causes are due to genes. Of course there is no money in just telling people to eat better, so people are scared into thinking they need to take drastic measures and sell their house to pay for them. To really take charge of your risk against cancers, eat a whole food, plant based diet. (see The China Study by Dr. T Colin Campbell)

Expat mum said...

I also read fairly nasty stuff from women who had actually had breast cancer and not "made such a big deal" about it. Their point was that she never really had cancer, and they went through much more and just got on with it. (Seemed to have forgotten that they aren't A-listers whose every act and word is reported in the international press.) Really don't understand the negativity.

Dawn Sticklen said...

Yes! I completely agree with you - on all fronts! I'm Team Jennifer all the way, BUT, my level of respect for Angelina has gone through the roof with this one. Talk about putting yourself out there and bringing attention to a cause! I have to admit, I have watched Brad and Angelina do some pretty amazing things with their fame and fortune over the past several years and I truly have come to admire them for their outspokenness and willingness to use their celebrity for good, not evil.

Leila said...

I think the biggest thing is knowing that there is a test out there that you can take to see what your odds are. As a child of a mother who is now battling her second round of breast cancer, this is something I'm very concerned about. I already knew that my odds were 50/50 to begin with. But when I found out a few years ago that there is a test that I can take to see if I have the mutation and what my odds are of getting breast cancer, I knew that it was something I needed to do. I need to know, so I can plan accordingly. See what I need to do, what I can do to decrease the odds that are stacked against me.

So yes, what Angelina did isn't revolutionary. That she had the balls to come out and say what she did is awesome. That is such a personal and emotional decision.

I think that, too often, we view celebrities as invincible. To know that she had such high odds of getting breast cancer kind of makes you feel less alone. That it doesn't care who you are or how much money you have, anyone can get. Christina Applegate had breast cancer as well. Her advocacy isn't as popularized simply because she's been doing it for longer than Angelina.

Kim at Let Me Start By Saying said...

My family has been riddled with cancer, and in my head it's not an "if," it's a "when." Oddly, I am at peace with this because I know what I would do.
I am not attached to any body part more than I am attached to my life and my children and my husband.
I have funky ovaries, and get them scanned regularly. My doctors and I are in agreement that the SECOND a SINGLE scan of them shows anything wonky: out they come. Good-bye.
If I had BRCA1 gene, my breasts would be gone. Good-bye. If I had a single tumor in one of them? Adios to both.

I, too, applaud her for being aggressive about Life, and I think she's a smart enough woman that she knew exactly what would come of her press over this. I hope she can strong-arm America into helping those who need the tests and the procedures, but can't afford them.
I really do.

Lynne Falanga said...

I think this test should be given to ALL women free of charge. I had insurance all of my life until Sept of 2012. I can't get covered because of a Pre-existing condition AND PLEASE DO NOT TELL ME OBAMA CARE CHANGED THAT..not true til 2014 if EVER..I had skin cancer, but the curable type and when they see the C word, it is an automatic NO!!!!!

Ellen Pittluck said...

To begin with, I have been on Team Angelina for a very long time. Never could stand Jennifer. That said, my mother died from breast cancer at age 46. Her sister, at 50. I have had mammograms since I was 30, annually since I was 40. About 10 years ago, mammograms were being dismissed as creating a bigger problem from the repeated radiation than the cancer they detect.

My point is - yes, I have one - that we all have a right to make the decisions we want for our individual bodies. No one else gets to weigh in on the appropriateness of the decision. The opinions of the douches who mourn the departure of Angelina's breasts have no impact at all on her life.

I have been lucky. No cancer so far. But - when I had a hysterectomy 6 years ago, I was asked about my ovaries. I said, "Yank them out, too!" Less stuff to get cancer from, given my family history.

I would say that I would like to request a punch in the throat for all of the people who think they know so much more than Angelina does.

tara said...

It is a very expensive test and not offered nearly enough. My aunt is just finishing up her first round of chemo from Breast cancer. They found a lump in one breast and not the other. The insurance company would not pay for a double so she opted to pay for the spendy test that is way out of their budget but worth the peace of mind... and guess what?? They found cancerous cells! Insurance paid for the double, but wouldn't pay for a preventitive test that, in the long run, would be cheaper and easier (2 surgeries) in the long run!!

Lucky Mama (Little Rock Mamas) said...

I also have to applaud Angelina's decision to be open about her experience. Yes, many other women have underwent preventative mastectomies and didn't get the attention she is getting. So what? Most of us aren't swarmed by paparazzi as we go to the store to buy milk either.
The simple fact is Angelina isn't like us. She's one of the beautiful people. But she certainly seems to be one of the beautiful people who is trying to use her celebrity to leave this planet and its inhabitants in better shape than it was when she got here. I have to applaud that.
Is Angelina's decision for everyone? No -- and she isn't saying it is. She simply is opening up the conversation about a very serious health issue. She is revealing that she sacrificed her breasts for her future. And for a woman who has made a living as a sex symbol, that seems pretty damn brave to me.

Meg said...

I'm sorry, but I'm going to be the bad guy here. I feel that making a decision to have a double mastectomy is easier when you know you can have the reconstruction surgery. When you know you don't have that choice and still opt for the mastectomy. then you are a woman who has sacrificed. Just MHO

Kate Feathers said...

Her body, her decision. Right? It's kind of hard to judge her for that. At least it is for me. I think a lot of good will come out of this. Thanks Angie for being a freak, kind of a jerk and a compassionate humanitarian all in one. Fucking Geminis!

As for the doctors, I've only heard one's opinion. I listen to a radio show by Dr. Christiane Northrup. She wrote Women's Bodies Women's Wisdom, which I read at 18 years old, in tandem with my mom and it's been a great resource for her and me. Dr. Northrup's only concern is the fear and panic that this press sparks in people and I can see her point. Right? She also said that many people die with this gene and not because of it. Also, many women who get breast cancer and pass from it do not have the gene.

So, I feel badly that people are freaking out over this. It's also astounding to me that someone's breasts and decision to remove for preventative reasons stirs up so much anger. In the holistic community, breasts are connected to the archetype of mother and nurturing. I think the outcry has a lot to do with people's relationship to mother, our mother earth, mothering as an energy, their mother, being or not being a mother to oneself or another and so on.

Anyway, I think it's time for everyone to just take a moment and breathe now. Grab your breasts and say, "Hey, thanks for being my friends. I will love and nurture you as you've done for so many others!"

There are options, there are good doctors, healers, medical intuitives (yes, check it out!) and people who can offer great advice, wisdom, knowledge and resources. Have faith and when it comes to LIFE and DEATH, don't judge. You're only hurting yourself!

Jennie Daniels said...

How about the fact that even though she does eat healthy and takes care of herself really wouldn't help her in that regard. She had the genetic tests done and the tests FOUND the BRCA mutation, and found she had an 87% chance of getting breast cancer. That mutation doesn't care if you're vegan, a meat eater, or a raw eater. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to have a nice big glass of chocolate milk and ice cream.

Jennie Daniels said...

How about the fact that even though she does eat healthy and takes care of herself really wouldn't help her in that regard. She had the genetic tests done and the tests FOUND the BRCA mutation, and found she had an 87% chance of getting breast cancer. That mutation doesn't care if you're vegan, a meat eater, or a raw eater. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to have a nice big glass of chocolate milk and ice cream.

Notsosupermom said...

In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that I have honestly not seen very much of the wide world, however, I can most assuredly inform you that Twitter is indeed, "populated with idiots and douchebags." (And a couple of funny moms and other people.)

Dyanne @ I Want Backsies said...

I was in the planning stages for prophylactic bilateral mastectomy, not due to BRCA+ but because of horrible fibrocystic disease, but before my doctor could even plead my case to the insurance company to cover the surgery (plus a tornado that blew my hospital, doctor's office and medical records to kingdom come, but that's another story), one of my cysts was biopsied and found to be stage 1 cancer. I was DELIGHTED to say "off with my boobies" and even had a Ta Ta to the Ta-tas Party to celebrate. And there was no squabble with the insurance company about covering any of it. Angelina Jolie didn't have to depend on insurance paying for hers - she can private pay. Not many of us have that luxury. She also could private pay for the BRCA test. MY insurance company won't cover it for me, because I don't meet all the conditions they have set as parameters. (My breast cancer and my maternal grandmother's breast cancer wasn't enough for them.)

So there is a fear that women are going to rush out and do the same thing as Angelina? They may WANT to, but unless they are prepared to pay out of pocket for the procedure, it won't be happening.

chacha said...

Ok, I'm weighing in because I can. I am a breast cancer survivor, I was 31. It's been 9 years since that particular cancer (I've also had oral squamous cell carcinoma) but I've seen so many young women die from this. I tested negative for the mutations, though I did have cancer on both sides of my family. Breast cancer in young women is more deadly than it is in older women, mostly because it's more aggressive, and sometimes because it's not caught early.

I've never been a huge Angelina fan, but I did respect her a bit more for this. There are some things that need to be talked about though. First, she has more money than she could possibly know what to do with, so she didn't just choose a surgeon from Angie's List. She probably talked to many before she found this particular person. She probably also paid in cold hard cash for the test, and maybe would have gone through with the surgeries even with out the genetic mutation. She did what she felt was right for her, and her family. She did it with partner support, and kept in mind that she has a responsibility to and love for her children.

The other thing is what many people have stated about Myriad. They are the reason the testing is so costly, by being the only company offering the test.

Oh, I guess I have a third thing, and that is this. The BRCA mutations are not the only cause of breast cancer, obviously. Eating well is not going to prevent it. I was incredibly healthy when I was diagnosed. An astounding one in four women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. If nothing else it's gotten people talking, and maybe thinking about what they would do in her shoes. Spendy shoes, but shoes nonetheless.

TNMom said...

I agree 100%!! Cancer does not give a fuck how much money you have or how big of a part your boobies have played in your image up to this point. This must have been an unfathomable decision for her and her family and I am so proud of her, really.
Loved this post Jen! <3 Devan

Anonymous said...

My mom died of ovarian cancer when I was 36, and I was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer at age 40. I had the BRCA test and had to fight my insurance company for payment but like you, I would have paid it out of pocket if necessary. To the assholes and douchebags offering opinions on Brad's loss or Angelina's choice, I say give them a double punch: one in the throat, and one in the nuts.

Rebecca Williamson said...

Her mother died of ovarian cancer. Which currently is not detectable, which means it is not usually found until it's too late. Angelina has the BRCA mutation, which means she is almost guaranteed to contract breast cancer and/or ovarian cancer. In addition, with this mutation, the cancer is much more aggressive and treatment is much more difficult. If you are at risk for the mutation, getting tested and discussing the options with your doctor could definitely save your life.
You're right, she's not a cancer survivor. But she is bringing positive attention to something that is not widely-known. It's like any other difficult thing-the more people are open about having the gene/getting the surgery, the easiest it is for others who might be in the same situation.

YanknFrank said...

Take it easy lady... just trying to add to the conversation like everybody else....

YanknFrank said...

Diet and lifestyle have profound affects on preventing illnesses, including cancer. Educate yourself as much as you can. The link below is from a doctor that has done extensive research with links to diet and breast cancer. It's definitely worth a read

/www.forksoverknives.com/angelina-jolies-double-mastectomy-people-are-desperate-for-change/

YanknFrank said...

PS let me know how you feel after all that chocolate milk and ice cream. Super energized and ready for a run?? mmm, probably not. What you put into your body is what you'll get out of it. and by the way, I'm not a vegan, but I accept that my food choices are the biggest factor in the status of my health. we are all dying of Western diseases that don't exists in countries where people eat plants and not animal based diets. you might think that's extreme, but cutting off your body parts is pretty extreme too..
and my heart goes out to all women and men suffering from breast cancers and other cancers. I've worked with a non profit "Keep a breast" dedicated to educating people on how to make lifestyle choices to avoid this tragic disease and offering support for those that go through it. I think that Angelina is very brave and probably very scared like most of us. It's good that she is getting a conversation started. But that conversation should include both sides. Is her decision the right one? does it have it's own risky side effects? what else can people do to reduce their risks?

Roshni AaMom said...

I did consider it drastic because she didn't even have the symptoms; just the predisposition for cancer. Also, I realize that she's rich and other women would not have the luxury of that option.
That being said, I do applaud her decision to be open about her surgery.

Kate Feathers said...

Here is another link by a woman who knows first hand about the issue and is very well informed about all options for people. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-healing-factor/201305/angelina-jolie-missed-important-opportunity

YanknFrank said...

Thanks for that! Great article. Like I said, at least Angelina's choice is encouraging more people speak out. Hopefully her voice won't be the most heard just because she's a celebrity.

Goodgollymzmollie said...

Thank you Jen for not judging Angelina and her choice. I am 34 years old and underwent a prophylactic mastectomy in January because I carry the exact same mutation as Angelina. It's too easy to judge and suggest other options such as "diet" when you didn't watch you mom battle cancer for half of your life. And eventually die from the horrible disease. Every person is different, every situation is different, and Angelina (although I've always been team Aniston, too) should be applauded for her courage to raise awareness. If interested, you can find my journey at http://tatatothetatas.blogspot.com/2013/05/angelina-and-me-brca-sisters-for-life.html (this particular link is my Anglina post).
Thanks again for writing this awesome post!

Skye said...

I also applaud her decision. I'm a six year breast cancer survivor and if I had known I was at risk before breast cancer nearly destroyed my life, I would have done exactly what she has done. As it is, I had to fight to get a bilateral mastectomy, even though I had an aggressive, invasive cancer in my left breast. I wanted no chance of a recurrance, and my surgeon had the nerve to tell me that he was the surgeon and he'd make the decisions. I made the decision to find a different surgeon.

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