I rarely get involved with current trending dramas. However, I am simply horrified at the amount of negative and nasty judgements being thoughtlessly thrown at Angelina Jolie because of her choice to get surgery to prevent cancer. So much of it is based on ignorance, media hype, fear, and anger. Those same judgements are being directed at the whole ‘Previvor’ community; Previvor’s are people who have a very high risk of getting a fatal form of cancer so they choose preventative surgery before the inevitable occurs and it is too late for a cure.
I recently posted my own story, and the good news is that within one day I received over 200 likes on FB, and 300 likes on my blog, including many positive and supportive comments.
I also received some really ignorant hate mail. Just a few, but they were comments such as:
‘Go ahead and cut your boobs off, you are all freaks’.
‘My uncle had throat cancer, should I cut out my throat?’
Today’s was from a woman who said:
‘I thought self mutilation was a mental disorder. And I think that 13%
chances of not getting cancer is good, I’d take those odds in Vegas’.
I have also seen some really nasty comments directed at Angelina. The worst was an ant-Semitic hate comment. My personal favorite was one saying that she did it as a publicity stunt. I have seen articles that suggest that the statistics don’t mean anything and that you can cure cancer with food and meditation; ie that it is simply a matter of mind over matter and food. Today I read an article that claims to have evidence that she did it as part of a corporate conspiracy to steal the BRCA patents and influence the Supreme Court decision.
I have no interest in getting into arguments with this level of ignorance. I don’t mind a healthy debate. If someone is intelligently questioning the options and choices, and they are presenting alternative perspectives with an honest desire to get into a good dialogue, that would be great. But this other stuff is just crazy; it appears to be based on ignorance, media hype, fear, and anger.
Most people don’t even realize that there are different types of cancer nor do they understand what having a BRCA gene mutation means. From what I have read, if you have a BRCA1 gene mutation (which is what Angelina has), you have an 87% chance of getting a non-treatable, hard to diagnose, and very likely fatal form of breast cancer. In addition, you have a 50% chance of getting ovarian cancer, which is currently almost undetectable until it is too late too treat. If you have the BRCA2 gene mutation, you would be at very high risk for getting an estrogen positive breast cancer, which is more often treatable, IF you catch it on time which is always a big IF. I don’t know what the statistics are if you have both mutations.
Some of the harshest critics are saying that 1) getting cancer is not based on genetics but rather the poison in our food, water, cosmetics, land, and air, 2) Oncologists, plastic surgeons, and the medical community feed on our fears to make money, and 3) Why would someone do such a thing just because they might get cancer, as if it was some remote possibility.
I for one am a hard core conspiracy theorist. I will not be surprised if the day arrives when it becomes common knowledge that the ‘cancer’ industry has been feeding us cancer for decades with toxins in our cosmetic products, our food, our water, and our air. I also believe that is highly likely that there are much better cures for cancer available than we are currently being led to believe. It seems clear to me that the pharmaceutical companies are making billions of dollars in the overuse of current medications and with the treatments we are being offered. I could go on and on about this.
However, there is considerable evidence that there are genetic markers that are very strong indicators of whether someone is likely to develop certain types of cancer. Is this simply a correlational relationship or a causal one? Is cancer caused purely from environmental factors? Is it purely hereditary? The age old ‘nature vs nurture’ question is at play here once again. The bottom line is that we really do not know yet what causes cancer. It sure doesn’t seem like there is one simple cause. In all likelihood, the roots of the disease include a combination of hereditary and environmental components. In addition, I imagine that other health care issues including things such as stress, over work, a lack of a spiritual connection to ourselves and to our planet all play a part in the ever growing cancer epidemic.
So what does any of this have to do with preventative mastectomies if you have the BRCA gene mutation?
Imagine this scenario. You are a woman, somewhere between the ages of 21 and 40. You have young children and a husband or a wife that you adore. Or you are 40-60 and you have new grandchildren that are the most amazing beings ever. Perhaps you are like me and you have no children but you love your husband, your life, and your kitties more than you ever thought possible. It could be that you haven’t had children yet, but you really want to live long enough to fall in love and start a family.
You find out that you have the BRCA gene mutation. Your mother, your aunt, your sister, and maybe a favorite cousin have all died from some form of cancer. You have watched them suffer slow and painful deaths. You saw their children and your family members suffer at their loss. You know that you have an 87% chance of getting a fatal form cancer. You have to get tested constantly but if you don’t catch it right away, your chances of survival are even lower. Every day you wake up with the feeling that you have a ticking time bomb on your chest. More than anything you want to live to see your children and grandchildren grow up and you want to be there for them.
You come home from work and your child or grandchild ask you things like, ‘are you going to get cancer?’ or ‘are you going to die?’
Getting a PBM (prophylactic double mastectomy) reduces your risk of getting cancer to 5%. FIVE PERCENT.
To me, it’s a no brainer. Why in the world would anyone keep the boobs in this instance? They are just BOOBS. Our bodies are amazing, yes, and unique and worth taking care of. And the surgery is a HUGE deal. It is NOT something to be done thoughtlessly. However, any idea you have about losing your beauty from this are way off base. Nowadays the surgery options are amazing, and often, foobs look much better than their original counter parts.
A PBM is the best known prevention option that is available at this time if you have the gene mutation and if you are at a very high risk for getting a genetic based cancer. Yes, perhaps better treatment is being hidden from us. Yes, perhaps if we heal our planet, deconstruct the food industry, ban big government, and expose the multi billion dollar cancer industry for what it is, we might discover new and better ways to prevent and treat cancer. Perhaps if we had eaten differently as children, if we hadn’t allowed our world to become poisoned, or if our medical treatments were not controlled by our government, our genetics may not have played out as cancer. Who knows?
But I for one was not going to wait around for that to happen. By then, most of us who are at high risk would be dead. As my friend Lisa Sousa says, it is MY DESTINY. I am the one who has to live with it or die with it. I was one of the lucky ones, I caught it early before it became invasive, before it spread to my nodes, and metastasized. If I had not, I would be telling a very different story today, if I was even alive to tell any story at all. And if I knew then what I knew now I WOULD have had a PBM before I got cancer. I know that many of my fellow PBM girlfriends would attest to this, waking up cancer free every day and knowing that my chances of getting breast cancer again are lower than the average woman, makes it all worth it.
We have all heard the stories of the super health food people who live pure and clean lives, but who get cancer and other diseases. And we have also heard the story of the lone wolf who smokes and drinks relentlessly, eats bacon and eggs daily, never exercises, and never gets sick. I have seen friends try alternative methods for healing such as raw foods, or alternative treatments, only to have their cancers grow and spread. Steve Jobs, one of my heroes, had a rare form of pancreatic cancer that actually likely would have been cured with traditional western medicine. He was a very committed vegan and alternative health person and he chose to delay chemical treatments until it was too late. He acknowledged in his biography that this was a mistake and that he wished he had started treatment when he could have been cured.
When western medicine offered me a 95% chance of a cure, as compared to alternative healing methods that have no consistent or reliable treatments at this time, I chose the 95% sure thing. If I had had a cancer that was not curable with western medicine, you bet I would have been chasing down miracle cures and alternative paths to healing. Do I believe that food, integrative health techniques, and deliberately changing beliefs can heal us? Absolutely. Do I know how to do that yet? Not a chance. Nor have I seen reliable evidence demonstrating that alternative methods such as the use of food, plants, and supplements can consistently prevent or heal cancer in the real world. Yet.
Another group of people that are judging Angelina are woman who have completed a PBM or who have had cancer and surgeries. They claim that just because Angelina has money and power, and resources that most of us don’t have, her choice to have this surgery is not as difficult as it for us average plain Jane’s struggling to make a living. Some people condemn her for coming out and sharing it with the world or they blame her because the media is making a big scene out of it. I have also heard criticism of her because she did have the money to get the tests and the surgeries that most people don’t have access to.
Because I did have cancer, some people think that having the surgery is more acceptable. However, even with my cancer diagnosis, I had numerous ‘new age’, and ‘enlightened’ friends judge me harshly and distance themselves when I chose a PBM, rather than seek out some alternative method for healing. It was really painful for me to lose many people that I had thought were life long friends during this time. I can’t even imagine the courage that Angelina has in sharing this with the entire world even in the face of the unbelievable amount of misunderstanding, judgment, and hate that she is now the target for.
Whether we like it or not, celebrities and the ‘beautiful’ people have a huge amount of influence. I am thrilled that she is using her power and influence to educate people and let them know what is possible. I have every confidence that she and others like her will begin to influence the powers that be and at least begin the process of making these procedures more available to more people at reasonable costs. Thank goodness that she does have the resources to really make a difference for all of us.
I only hope that if I were in a position of such grand power I would have the courage to do what she did. I can’t even imagine having to endure that much public exposure on a regular basis simply for being a star, but to then be condemned by so many for her personal decision seems intolerable. Her commitment to making a difference for others is inspirational.
I do not ask that anyone agree with any of this. I do ask that people take the time to get educated and understand before judging. If nothing else comes from Angelina’s ‘coming out’ other than people talking about these issues and arguing about them, at least this is a start. She is helping to legitimize a very valid treatment option that many of us who went before her have been criticized harshly for.
I say ‘Kudos’ to you Angelina. I bow to your courage and am humbled by your true beauty.