Two weeks ago, Angelina Jolie announced that she had undergone a double mastectomy to reduce her risk of cancer. Some people applauded her courage, others started to point out and make a huge deal about the fact that only those with money have the luxury of electing that procedure. Others still, started a dialogue about the types of foods that we put in our bodies that can cause a severe hormonal and chemical imbalance. These are the dialogues that gained the most momentum, and were heard as they shouted their message.
Both of these of these conversations are worth having, I implore those of us having them to stop for a moment and think of the amount bravery it takes for a woman to cut off a part of their body that most signifies her femininity. A woman who is internationally known as a sex symbol at that.
I want to share a story with you. This is a story about my friend, *Jill. Jill and I started working together at my previous company about 8 years ago, and became instant friends. She’s the girl who can steal your heart, and make your feel like you’ve known her for ages. She’s kind, generous, absolutely beautiful, and is typically described the girl with the “old soul”. Yes, thats how strangers referred to her. To the outside world, Jill had no worries at the age of 25. Yes, she had lost her mother at a very young age, but she had finally learned to deal with that. Everything was fine, until one day it wasn’t. I remember getting a call from her on a wednesday afternoon telling me that she had breast cancer. Her doctor has confirmed it the previous Monday and she was going into surgery the following week.
I had a hard time processing what she was saying, and it might have been because her voice was so hollow. I mean who gets breast cancer at 25? We didn’t! I had lost my 29 year old uncle to gastrointestinal cancer when I was 12, BUT 29 seems old to a 12 year old. And this was really life, and happening to someone that I cared for. Well, she went and got her left breast removed, and began that series of tests that would alter her life. She, along with her sister, had the same gene that Jolie has. They were doomed with bodies that were working against them.
At 25 she had to make a choice. Did she want to take a risk and try to wait a few years and have children, or did she get a hysterectomy, and remove her other breast, thus removing everything that made her a woman? I don’t know how Jill and her sister made the choice that they did, but I know that it wasn’t easy.
The conversation that I recall most vividly was where she explained that had she not gone through with it, and decided to have children, those children might have to lose a mother as she did. There are moments where we are angry with GOD, and that was one of those moments. These days 25 is considered a child, and having to deal with that life altering decision is not an easy thing.
We take so many things for granted, and do demeaning things to our bodies every day. But people like Jolie remind me that sometimes the bravest people in the world are the ones who make choices that others can’t understand. And not being to understand is a blessing in itself.