Monday 3 June 2013


There has been much ado in the media recently over Angelina Jolie and her discovery that she carries the BRCA gene, making her more likely than not to develop breast cancer at some time in her life.
As a result, Angelina opted for a double mastectomy with reconstruction, to dramatically lower her odds of developing breast cancer down the road. 

Angelina ostensibly underwent the genetic testing to determine if she carried the gene as her mother succumbed to ovarian cancer in 2007, and we have now learned of the death of her aunt (her mother’s sister), from breast cancer just weeks ago - and she carried the gene.
The BRCA gene makes one at high risk for both breast and ovarian cancer.

Angelina has been portrayed in the media with countless faces – for her beauty, her acting skills, her devotion to family, her relationship with Brad Pitt.  There has been much criticism (jealousy?) along the way of her weight, her lips, her legs, her beauty, her acting skills, her devotion to family, her relationship with Brad Pitt. 
She has never been portrayed as an out and out Heroine, until now though.  She is now being heralded over her bravery of getting the genetic testing done; digesting the results; making the tough decision on what steps to take to help ensure she lives long and prospers without cancer; undergoing the double mastectomy pre-op procedures; the actual surgery; the post-surgical drains and recovery process.  She is reportedly looking into the removal of her ovaries to eradicate the odds of her developing ovarian cancer.

Wow, what a lady!  What an unusual and outstanding woman……..or is she?
Here at Cancer Crossing, five women we know, immediately come to mind.  Two of the women tested positive for the BRCA gene (after developing breast cancer already) and had the double mastectomy surgery with reconstruction.
One has recently been diagnosed with the BRCA gene (after developing ovarian cancer) and is on the surgical consultation list for double mastectomy/reconstruction.
Two other women we know have opted for the double mastectomy with reconstruction not because of the BRCA gene, but because they had developed breast cancer in one breast and facing a single mastectomy, made the decision to opt for the double mastectomy as it gave them a greater sense of comfort they would not have to deal with breast cancer again.

Has the media reported on the Heroism of any of these women?  No.
These women underwent, or are undergoing these procedures in Winnipeg without the enormous financial resources Angelina has available to assist her through this difficult time.  Angelina has the resources to allow for the time she required to be away from work.  She has the resources to assist with child care.  She has the resources for psychiatric help should she need it through this challenging time.  Angelina has the resources for immediate action on her case. 

These are resources our five women did not/do not, necessarily have available while undergoing their double mastectomies and reconstruction.   Our women had to get cancer to discover the gene or to make the double mastectomy/reconstruction decision for their own peace of mind.  These women, and any and all cancer patients dealing with their own unique cancer experience, are the patients we at Cancer Crossing are looking to create a fund to support. 
Is Angelina a Heroine?  Yes, because she is able to raise public awareness on the BRCA gene and the double mastectomy/reconstruction procedure with lightning speed, which can only be a good thing. 
Here at Cancer Crossing though, we think the real Heroine’s in this story are our five ladies, who dealt with/are dealing with, all that Angelina has and more.  Where are these women?  Obviously if we know five, there are undoubtedly thousands or tens of thousands of these ladies.  They are in your workplace, at social events, at the grocery store and at the shopping mall ticking off the items on their ‘to do’ list because life carries on, and the ‘inbox’ is always full.  They are hard to detect because they quietly stare cancer in the eye and fight with an intimate circle of supporters.  No paparazzi, no fanfare, just Bravery.

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