Tuesday, May 14, 2013

My two cents...

Okay, if Ang can write an op-ed piece, then I can write about her op-ed piece, so here it is...

Angelina Jolie's revelation that she had a prophylactic double mastectomy has raised some issues, gotten people talking because of course, this is Angelina Jolie, and hey, these are Lara Croft's boobs we are talking about here. I applaud her decision, and frankly I'm jealous, jealous that she had the option to do something prophylactically, that she likely wasn't restricted by what her insurance allowed her have, i.e. tests, doctors, surgeons, etc., that she, as of yet, did not have to have chemo and radiation and the cancer cloud hanging over her head, and personally, I think it's no one's business but her own....but let's get one thing clear - she did not have cancer and cannot speak to what it is like to have cancer. I understand her mom died of cancer and she watched that, so she's knows better than some, but still, to compare her surgery to someone who has cancer and is having a double mastectomy is not in the same ballpark. I should have learned by now to never read the comment section of articles, and this one did not disappoint. The amount of misinformation, misunderstanding, and just plain wrong-ness out there is, quite frankly, astounding.

I don't believe she has "gone through hell" as I've seen some comments say, and I'd be willing to take a bet that she would say the same thing. Hell, I don't even think I have gone through hell knowing what some other people go through.  I don't believe she is a hero for doing this, a champion, a badass, any of those things. I think she is an extremely lucky women to not have developed cancer so far, to have the resources to be able to make this decision in the first place, and to likely have the best medical resources at her fingertips to have an outcome she is happy with. Many many women do not get even one of those things. As I've discussed before, the BRCA test she had done costs between 3 and 4 thousand dollars, and many insurance plans won't cover it - likely not a concern for Ang but that is a huge chunk of money to most families. Secondly, she apparently had a nipple-saving and likely skin-sparing surgery, where they basically scoop out the breast tissue but your skin and nipple are saved. Please don't compare that to a mastectomy needed as a result of cancer, where an extremely minimal amount of women get to have the option of a skin- or nipple-saving operation. Thirdly, I know in her article she stated that "the results can be beautiful." Well, they can when you are keeping most of  your skin and your nipple. Most of the women I've talked to who have had reconstruction or are going through it currently would not describe results as "beautiful". Functional, hopefully comfortable, not painful, and if you are really lucky, symmetrical, seem to be what we aspire too.

I know she didn't mean to, but I truly hope people do not confuse what she is describing, a prophylactic double-mastectomy - no cancer, no chemo, no radiation, no lymph node removal, arm stiffness, no worry about lymphedema, skin- and nipple-sparing - as anything close to breast reconstruction after cancer. As I said, I truly admire her decision, she has a greatly reduced risk of breast cancer now (mind you, the risk is not gone, it is greatly reduced, but not eliminated) but I'm just hoping people recognize there is a difference and don't look at their friends, relatives, etc who are going through cancer treatments and then having reconstruction and say to them "What are you complaining about? Angelina did it, she made it sound pretty easy!"

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