An Emotional and Thoughtful Decision Over BRAC1 and Surgery
Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP
In the last several years, no celebrity decision has been more instructive and influential than the decision after childbirth and many child adoptions than that of Angelina Jolie Pitt. She was celebrated for for her many movies at a still young age prior to moving to directing movies, known for unflinting courage in action movies by a woman gifted and excelling at actions considered to be done by a substitute. The athleticism might recall that of Lucille Ball or of Katharine Hepburn in another generation. She developed a small resectable breast lesion not so long after her marriage, and her mother had had breast cancer previously. Genetic testing revealed that she had a BAC1 genetic typing. Having consulted with the best physician advice available and with discussions with her husband, Brad Pitt, she undertook a double mastectomy. This was still not the end of the story. Her mutation, which is associated usually with a jewish heritage, is also associated with risk of ovarian cancer. This led to a later decision to have an oophorectomy. She made two of the most difficult decisions that women face, especially if they are of childbearing age.
Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt sat down for an emotional interview with the “Today” show to discuss their new movie “By the Sea” and her decision to undergo a double mastectomy and have her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to avoid cancer. During the moving discussion, Pitt praised his wife’s braveness.
“I just remember there was no vanity to my wife’s approach,” he said, after explaining how he found out about the blood test results that showed she could have signs of early-stage ovarian cancer while away in France. “It was mature. [There] was an excitement to where this is our life, we’re gonna make the best of it. There was a strength in that. It’s just another one of those things in life that makes you tighter. She was doing it for her kids, and she was doing it for her family, so we can be together. It trumped everything, everything and anything.”
The mother of six said her husband’s support was paramount.
“He made it very, very clear to me that what he loved and what was a woman to him was somebody who was smart and capable and cared about her family. It’s not about your physical body. I knew through the surgeries that he was on my side and that that wasn’t somewhere where I was going to feel like less of a woman, because my husband wasn’t going to let that happen.”
Jolie used the same doctor as her late mother, Marcheline Bertrand, to remove her ovaries. Bertrand, who died in 2007 after an eight-year battle with ovarian cancer, made the doctors and nurses “promise” to remove her daughter’s ovaries.
Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie: When is it Time to Seek Help?
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s marriage has been reinvigorated by couples’ counseling. Although things are on the mend now, there was trouble in paradise less than a year after they tied the knot. Not only did Brad see ex Jennifer Aniston alone, but he alsodidn’t accompany Angelina to the Critics’ Choice Awards in January. After months of fighting, they decided to seek out the help of a therapist. Now they plan to always keep counseling in their lives, because they say it has transformed their marriage and helped them fall in love with each other again. And they are not alone. Cameron Diazand Benji Madden have enlisted some outside support after just five months of marriage, as they work to put a strong foundation underneath them. This proves that it is never too early to get help.
The secret to having a lasting relationship is to not let the anger and resentment build up to the point where it drives you apart. A lot of people don’t realize that a lasting union is full of angry and questioning feelings which go hand in hand with the adoring ones, not unlike a seesaw. I call them “love you, mean it” and “hate you, mean it” moments, which I talk about in my book What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship. It is natural to shift in and out of these emotions. The challenge is to make sure the positive ones always balance the negative ones so that they don’t consume you. The goal is always to continue to or to get back to loving and feeling connected to your partner. What happens, though, when that becomes more and more difficult to do, and you aren’t able to get past the anger anymore? How do you know when it is time to bring in a trained professional to help you sort out the issues?
Even in today’s sophisticated age, people are often reluctant to air their marital problems with an outsider, especially when it comes to sexual troubles. There are many reasons for this which include feeling embarrassed, the fear that you think something is really wrong with you or your partner, the concern that you will be told there is something wrong with your relationship that is unfixable, or maybe you do want to go but your partner doesn’t. There are also those people who think that because the idea of divorce hasn’t come up things can’t be that bad, so you don’t really need help.
Angelina Jolie is an Oscar-winning actress who became popular after playing the title role in the “Lara Croft” blockbuster movies, as well as Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005),Wanted (2008), Salt (2010) and Maleficent (2014). Off-screen, Jolie has become prominently involved in international charity projects, especially those involving refugees.
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, she said, “I actually love being in menopause,” shocking women worldwide. The star said she’s “very fortunate” that her experience with menopause hasn’t been all that bad.
Jolie-Pitt had a double mastectomy in 2013 and then decided in March to have her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to decrease her chance of getting cancer, as she carries the BRCA1 gene mutation. Her most recent surgery is one that “puts women into a forced menopause,” she wrote in a heartfelt New York Times op-ed publicly announcing her decision.
“I feel older, and I feel settled being older. I feel happy that I’ve grown up,” she said. “I don’t want to be young again.”
Her husband, Brad Pitt, has been helped her overcome the physical effects of the surgery.
She described her experience in two op-ed articles in the New York Times. These articles have been highly influential in the lives of other women.