I have been thinking a lot about Angelina Jolie's recent information regarding her preventative double mastectomy. The response to her editorial regarding this has been surprising to me. Here's what I expected:
"Wow. That was pretty extreme. I don't know if I would do that." Here is what I heard:
"Now doctors will do more unnecessary surgeries and woman will be clamoring for them."
First of all, I know of a number of people who have had hysterectomies preventatively. There were indications that there could be something significant awry and it was deemed safer for the woman's overall health, to simply remove the organs in question. No one that I knew thought anything negative about their choice to do this. Everyone thought it was better to remove immediately than "wait and see."
So why is Jolie's case so different? I would suggest that it is because breasts define our womanhood in society. They shout out to the world our femininity and one of our roles, that of nurturing children. To be sure, not all women conceive, not all women breast feed, but culturally it is still a part of who we are.
A dear friend of mine had a post on Facebook recently that said something about migraine sufferers would not cut off their heads, why should women cut off their breasts. I respect his right to post that; his wife is a breast cancer survivor. And a bit of me agrees with his theory. I am personally much more in the camp of healthy eating, healthy living, and a much more Eastern philosophy of mind/body health is my personal path. Though as a chronic migraine sufferer, part of me wanted to tell him there are lots of times when I wanted to cut my head off! LOL
However, here is what is important. What to do about a genetic predisposition to cancer should be each individual's choice. I have another friend whose family has been devastated by breast cancer. It is clearly a genetic issue. Mom , cousin, and sister all with the same devastating cancer. If there is a way to prevent that, and I had watched three members of my family pass away from it, I think I would want to consider this more radical solution.
What is good about the Angelina Jolie issue is that a stunning, successful young woman has made a difficult choice and been willing to share her rationale with the world. Her partner has also spoken out in a supportive and loving manner about her decision. That is a healthy role model for all of us.