real life

Angelina's message of hope: "I do not feel any less of a woman"

Angelina Jolie says she chose to go public about her recent double mastectomy “because there are many women who do not know that they might be living under the shadow of cancer”. By explaining her decision to remove her healthy breasts and the course of action she took, she hopes other women “will be able to gene tested, and that if they have a high risk they, too, will know that they have strong options.”

But she achieved so much more than that. Because a mastectomy isn’t just about escaping cancer.

There is so much fear – and subsequent grief – involved. A woman’s breasts are the most obvious sign of her sexuality. To remove them can be terrifying.

According to Cancer.Net: “To many people, breasts symbolize femininity, sexuality, and nurturance. Some women may feel that losing a breast to cancer alters their identity as a woman. Furthermore, when a woman faces surgery that changes how her body looks, she may experience feelings of isolation, loss, and helplessness, along with feelings of anxiety, depression, and uncertainty caused by a diagnosis of breast cancer.”

“A woman may also worry about their physical and sexual attraction after a mastectomy, such as being accepted by her partner and concerned about still being able to sexually please her partner.”

Angelina’s openness sends an incredible signal. In the article she wrote for The New York Times about her decision, entitled “My Medical Choice”, she discusses how important partner Brad Pitt’s support was during the process. And she emphasizes that his love for her has increased, not diminished.

She reveals that “Brad was at the Pink Lotus Breast Center, where I was treated, for every minute of the surgeries. We managed to find moments to laugh together. We knew this was the right thing to do for our family and that it was bring us closer. And it has.”

She also talks about the impact the procedure has had on her children and her self-image.

“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 feminity.”

Her words are an incredibly selfless act by someone who works in an incredibly selfish industry. Actors are conditioned to be egocentric by the adulation that constantly surrounds them. But Angelina has chosen to set ego aside to inspire and give hope to others. 


And for that she is to be applauded.

Of course, Angelina isn’t the first celebrity to have a mastectomy. E! News presenter Guiliana Rancic had both breasts removed in 2011 following a cancer diagnosis.

Guiliana appeared on the Today show less than three weeks after the procedure and said: 'If you can save one life through this process, you're turning this negative into an incredible positive.'

As for the emotional impact, Guiliana stayed upbeat.  "My breasts have never defined me — and now they never will … I think scars tell such an incredibly story. I'll always look at them and think, 'Wow, I made it through that.'"

Christina Applegate, on the other hand, admits she had a “total emotional collapse'” after undergoing a double mastectomy in 2008 after being diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer.

Before she went in for her surgery, Christina staged her first – and last – nude photo shoot.

"I made sure that I have close-up photographs of them from every angle so I can kind of remember them.”

And, while waiting for her new implants to be inserted, she mourned for her lost breasts.

"I cry at least once a day about it because it's hard to overlook it when you're standing there in the mirror,” she confessed at the time. “When you look down, it's the first thing you see… So you're reminded constantly of this thing – this cancer thing that you had."

But Christina says the experience has changed her priorities in life completely. "[There's] this need and this desire to make every single day count," she says. "I used to say… 'Don't sweat the small stuff — not even the big stuff.' At the end of the day, none of it matters but your own joy, your own spiritual journey that you go on, God, your loved ones, your friends, your animals. These are the things you've got to cherish and love and embrace."