The Cancer Gene

Angelina Jolie’s announcement today that she had surgery to remove her ovaries hit home for me. I have a family history of cancer much like the actor’s: My grandmother had breast cancer, one of her daughters died of colon cancer, and her other daughter — my mom — has been fighting serous cervical cancer for four years. I had also found out recently that the “cancer markers” in my blood were elevated. This news, as well as Mom’s recent relapse, had me thinking about my own mortality in a way I have been fortunate never to have done before. Jolie’s brave example of prophylactic surgery (she had a double mastectomy two years ago) can not be underestimated; it helped shape my own resolve to get rid of these body parts, should it turn out I have inherited a cancer gene. If Angie doesn’t need boobs, neither do I!

Unlike Jolie, I am lucky: I found out just last week that I have tested negative for the BRCA “cancer” gene. I’m not completely in the clear, but I’m breathing a lot freer. And I’m so grateful that a woman of Jolie’s public stature is stirring public discourse about women’s health. She helped steel my resolve to get tested in the first place, showing me that a positive result is not a death sentence but a piece of information that could save my life. She is totally my Hero of the Week. All hail Angelina Jolie, long live Angelina Jolie!

Mom, you’re my hero for life.

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