In her extremely honest and well written New York Times Op-Ed entry entitled “My Medical Choice,” actress Angelina Jolie explains the reasons why she underwent a double mastectomy. The bravery involved in an A-list actress doing such a thing is obvious, for all of Hollywood is built on an extremely shaky foundation of so-called beautiful people, many of whom only got that way through artificial means. These enhanced individuals set the tone not only for the tinsel world of spotlights and movie premieres, but also influence young people everywhere who want to be like the false gods who become their idols.
Ms. Jolie could have hidden her “choice” from the public, which would have been her right, but she chose to reveal what she experienced. Her choice not only will be an inspiration to many other women but could also help to redefine, or perhaps create a new category of what is a thing of beauty. Ms. Jolie goes into explicit detail as to how the procedures took place, and she speaks about her reconstructive surgeries as well. In this way she is letting women know that options include ways to feel whole again.
What was her motivation for taking this path? The fact was that after taking a gene test doctors told her that she had an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk for ovarian cancer. Since Ms. Jolie’s mother, actress Marcheline Bertrand, died in 2007 at 56 from ovarian cancer, Ms. Jolie (37) took a proactive approach because she had a greater risk of getting breast cancer.
She also mentions that her children were the most important factor in her decision making process. Since only her older children had a chance to know her mother and the others will “never experience how loving and gracious she was,” Ms. Jolie began thinking about her own mortality and her role as a mother, and that impelled her to follow the steps she needed to take.
When she writes, “For any woman reading this, I hope it helps you to know you have options,” she is setting the stage for many others to think differently. Unfortunately, the idea of beauty and what is beautiful obfuscates the thinking of not only Hollywood types but all people. Ms. Jolie knows this better than anyone, and we need only look at her film career and understand that it was established in large part because of her physical appearance; however, she also manifested a reputation as a serious actress in various roles and also became a female action hero. She certainly made her mark, but she also settled down and took her obligation to her family as a serious priority.
Not one to seem to be held down by standards, Ms. Jolie is now setting new ones. She writes, “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.” Clearly there will be people who have feared even getting a breast exam who may now think differently, and it is obviously Ms. Jolie’s hope that by revealing her ordeal that she will help other women.
In Ms. Jolie’s article she also tells of the strong support that she got from her partner, A-list actor Brad Pitt. If you didn’t like this couple before, you may start to think differently about them now. Clearly theirs is not some superficial Hollywood union; rather, it is obviously one based on love, family, and mutual respect. Ms. Jolie notes that Mr. Pitt was there “for every minute of the surgeries.” Hopefully, this will also put men into the right frame of mind as well when and if they learn that their partner has breast cancer.
Ms. Jolie wants women to face facts about their options, especially hoping that they will “get gene tested” in order to ascertain their risk for developing these cancers. If even a few lives are saved, then Ms. Jolie has done a great service through her selfless act of revelation.
I have always thought Ms. Jolie was a beautiful woman, and I have enjoyed the movies that she has been in, but I have to say that now she is even more beautiful than ever. In my mind this is the kind of thing poet John Keats defined as “beauty is truth, truth beauty.” Keats knew, as we should too, that physical beauty is fleeting; however, true inner beauty resides in a place that is unaffected by time’s cruel hand. Ms. Jolie has written about a truth in her life that in the end is a beautiful thing that she has shared with us.
Ms. Jolie is a brave and truly beautiful woman. Hopefully, her words will reach as many individuals – male and female alike – as possible and help them as they deal with this pernicious disease. Now Ms. Jolie has transcended what it means to be a Hollywood star, rising to new heights in the firmament by telling her story. Let’s hope she will be a guiding light for many years to come for people everywhere.
Photo credits: jolie-getty images; bertrand-imdb.com; pitt-people.com