Monday, May 27, 2013

To All the Angelina Jolie Haters: Mind Your Own Business



Jolie was criticized for "ruining her looks" when she got
a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.
Featureflash / Shutterstock.com

 It’s been two weeks since Angelina Jolie announced that she had gotten a preventative double mastectomy. Jolie’s mother had fought a decade-long battle with cancer and died at age 56 from the disease. And now, just a month after the completion of her own preventative procedures, Jolie’s aunt has passed away from breast cancer. She was 61.

In her op-ed for the New York Times, Angelina Jolie explains her reasoning behind getting the procedure done: her genetics left her with an 87% risk of breast cancer and a 50% risk of ovarian cancer. She carries the BRCA1 faulty gene that raised her risk by about 65%. Her mastectomies brought her chances of developing breast cancer down below 5%. The procedures and following reconstructive surgery left her with some small scars, but that’s a small price to pay for your life.

I was dismayed and shocked to hear of the people who had criticized Jolie’s personal medical decision. It is her body and her choice. Her family supported her. Her children will grow up without having to worry about their mother dying from cancer. These are all fantastic things.

Some women unable to afford reconstructive surgery have covered their scars with beautiful tattoos.
Some women unable to afford reconstructive surgery
have covered their scars with beautiful tattoos.
Image: Bodies of Subversion
But instead of congratulating her on being strong and intelligent about the matter, people lamented that she had “ruined” her looks. They said she got what she deserved for “stealing” Brad Pitt from Jennifer Aniston. Essentially, they told her she should have taken her 13% chance and kept her breasts.  

Are we such a superficial and cold-hearted society? I guess in some ways, we are. It’s inexcusable that someone’s entire worth as a person be judged completely on physical appearance, but occurrences like this remind me that not everyone believes the same as I do. Why can’t we set our judgments aside for a moment and consider a person for who they really are—for what they do and what they affect?

Jolie’s personal decision and openness about it will hopefully encourage other women to get the facts and make an informed decision when facing the prospect of breast cancer. The choice belongs to each woman—but it’s sad that it is a decision tainted with societal constraints. It’s sad that a woman would choose the 13% chance because she was more afraid of being judged than of dying.

Gwyneth Paltrow suffered a miscarriage and stroke scare
before taking on a more proactive role in her health.
Helga Esteb / Shutterstock.com
For someone in a position like Angelina Jolie’s, the decision becomes even harder. With a career that is often focused on physical appearance and the entire world as an audience, there are far more judgments coming in. I personally applaud her decision. Not only was she making the difficult decision to have a painful and lengthy procedure, but she was also doing so knowing that millions would be judging her for it.

I hope that others will find courage in Jolie’s decision—whether or not they like her as a person (at least as the person the media portrays). Socioeconomic status, celebrity, and looks do not make us immune to disease or misfortune—a fact that Gwyneth Paltrow knows as well. Know your risk factors, and be informed.

WebMD is a wonderful resource for those seeking information about breast cancer, causes, risk factors, treatments, and more. Please check it out—you might be surprised at some of the risk factors, preventative practices, or other information available. Be safe, not sorry.

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