By now many of you have heard about Angelina Jolie's decision to have a double mastectomy. If you hadn't, well now you have.
I've now had some time to think about this and want to share my thoughts with all of you.
First of all, kudos to her for making such a tough choice. I know it's not an easy decision and she did what she felt was best for her. Cancer of any kind is a very scary thing to deal with.
Now, the reasons I cringe a bit not only about her doing this, but her sharing her decision with the world.
Let's start with her celebrity status and the fact a lot of girls and women look up to her. A lot of them will go out and want to get tested for this mutant gene. If they find out they have it, they'll be inspired to get a mastectomy as well.
I know a lot of you are now going, "Isn't this a good thing? It will reduce their chances of breast cancer. Preventative measures are best. Besides, it's not like they'll be any less of a woman for doing it."
My answer to the last part: They may think they'll be ok with losing their breast, but ask any cancer survivor who didn't have a choice. They prepared themselves, thought they would be ok after the surgery, but still found themselves grieving when it was done. They lost a very visible part of themselves and it takes some getting used to. Anyone who says it didn't upset them is lying.
As women, we're just as obsessed with our breasts as the men are. Think about when we were teenagers going through puberty. Tell me you weren't stressing about them then. Sit in a room full of other women. Unless it's a Puritan Church group, I guarantee the subject of breasts will come up at some point. Heck, they were talking about them in the waiting room of my daughter's dance class. It's part of us. We can survive without them, but it doesn't mean it will be easy.
Yes, there are ways to cope with it. Reconstructive surgery, specialized clothing, learning to embrace the 'New You.' I've even seen all-over tattoos to make those scars into something beautiful. But, it still takes time to adjust.
Now for the biggest reason this worries me: a mastectomy isn't 100% proof against breast cancer. Her chances might drop, but they still exist. My own mother has survived breast cancer twice. She had a mastectomy the first time, was cancer-free for two years and it came back IN THE SAME SPOT. She's one of the least likely candidate to get it in the first place and she ended up with it twice.
We also can't forget, although it's not as frequent, but even men get breast cancer.
What I'm getting at is I'm afraid after they go through with this preventative measure, many of these women will feel like they're free and clear. They'll think, erroneously, that they don't have to worry about getting breast cancer now. Will they continue with regular check-ups? What are they going to do if, after subjecting themselves to this surgery, they end up with it anyway?
We've become a society of 'Preventative Measures'. We try to protect ourselves against everything imaginable before the threat can even materialize. Sometimes I wonder if we've gone too far.