Today, I woke up to the news that Angelina Jolie had gone through with her bilateral salpingo oopherectomy (BSO for those of us that talk this talk daily). She took the second step that many of us BRCA mutation carriers have to consider.
Since I commented previously on her decision to undergo a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy (PBM), I was happy to see this brought into her limelight. And I will say that I think she handled this very sensitive subject with grace and dignity.
She addressed why she did it. She addressed her fears. She wasn't a celebrity; she was one of us. She went through something so many of us go through -- a scare. When you're a BRCA carrier (or another high-risk patient screened regularly), it's only a matter of time before you have your first scare. For some, it will be a call back for a breast biopsy. For another, it will be an elevated CA-125. For some, like me, it's something you feel whether it be a lump or bloating or pain.
And you can only hope you are as lucky as Angelina. That you and your physicians are as on top of your surveillance as hers were. That you can beat cancer to the punch. I'm glad she did just that. I'm glad she is able to say she's a previvor.
Yet some people will never understand. At first, I was impressed by the response and the encouragement and acceptance. And then I kept looking. I should have stopped while I was ahead, I suppose, because the ignorance ate away at me.
This is a proven scientific risk inherited in a known genetic mutation. This is not self mutilation. This is not a choice we make to become cyborg women. This is not an option given only to Angelina Jolie because she is rich. This is not even a choice for most of us. There's one saying: Is it really elective surgery if the alternative choice is cancer?
While you can't really live without your brain if you're at an inherited risk of alzheimer's, you do not need your breasts or ovaries to survive. They do not make you the person you are. And to wait, to choose to treat instead of prevent ovarian cancer, you run the very real risk of getting there too late.
But this is also not a choice to make lightly or too early. This is the scarier cancer, but this prophylactic surgery also carries very real risks and possible side effects on your life and your body -- ranging from heart disease to osteoporosis. No one chooses this for their own personal infamy.
So, thank you to my own friends and family who are nothing but supportive, even if it's in not saying anything at all if you do happen to disagree. I appreciate every 'like' and 'share' and every comment. I'm glad I don't have to endure any of this in the public eye as Angelina Jolie does. But I'm also hope I can be a source of education for those I know and those who choose to walk alongside me.
If Angelina or I have you thinking about your own family history (nearly 20% of all ovarian cancer cases can be linked to a genetic mutation), please visit AssessYourRisk.org via Bright Pink or the FORCE website and Facebook page for more information. Or feel free to ask me anything.