Angelina Jolie, the epitome of physical beauty to many women, has just made public the news that she chose to have a double mastectomy earlier this year after finding out she carries a gene that makes breast and ovarian cancer a serious threat.
Jolie, who wrote about her decision in a piece in the New York Times, says she wanted to do it after watching her own mother battle breast cancer and pass away before she got the chance to meet all of her grandchildren. With doctors saying she had an 87% chance of developing cancer of the breast, she knew she didn't want to take the risk if there was a chance she didn't have to succumb to it.
"My mother fought cancer for almost a decade and died at 56," Jolie wrote. "She held out long enough to meet the first of her grandchildren and to hold them in her arms. But my other children will never have the chance to know her and experience how loving and gracious she was. They have asked if the same could happen to me."
Jolie says she managed to keep word of the surgeries from getting out and finished the last of her medical procedures in late April. Now, she says, she wants to inspire other women who may be facing the same thing.
"...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," she wrote.
After facing the invasive, painful procedures and enduring implant surgery, Jolie says she's happy with the results. And as one of the most universally-recognized beauties in the world, she's changing the way women see their bodies and how they empower themselves, for the sake of their children if nothing else.
"I can tell my children that they don’t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer," she says. "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."