My first reaction to reading the news that Angelina Jolie had both her breasts removed was to quip to my flatmate that this is a greater disaster than the great depression.
But after my customary initial tasteless humour impulse, I did reflect that she is a massively courageous woman to do what she did.
I can’t imagine a double masectomy is an easy decision for any woman at all, but for a woman whose body has attracted global fame, the pressure would be even greater. And to have to make the decision not based on a current risk of cancer, but a future one, just adds to it.
While she did it for personal reasons, what a great role model for other women who may have to make such a difficult decision. If Angelina Jolie is willing to do it, it may help many more people to put their lives ahead of their looks, and do what they can to reduce the risk of breast cancer.
On April 27, I finished the three months of medical procedures that the mastectomies involved. During that time I have been able to keep this private and to carry on with my work.
But I am writing about it now because I hope that other women can benefit from my experience. Cancer is still a word that strikes fear into people’s hearts, producing a deep sense of powerlessness. But today it is possible to find out through a blood test whether you are highly susceptible to breast and ovarian cancer, and then take action.
I suspect her decision to both have the double mastectomy and to write publicly about it will do more for raising awareness of this issue that probably all the public health campaigns combined in the world.
Some celebrities use their status to boost their egos. Other use it to do a world of good – Jolie is definitely one of those.