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The decision to have a double mastectomy wasn't easy. But I'm very happy I made it

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Actress Angelina Jolie (R) and her late mother Marcheline who died from breast cancer. Photo: Fred Prouser/ Reuters

Actress Angelina Jolie (R) and her late mother Marcheline who died from breast cancer. Photo: Fred Prouser/ Reuters

Actress Angelina Jolie (R) and her late mother Marcheline who died from breast cancer. Photo: Fred Prouser/ Reuters

ONE of the most beautiful women in the world – actress Angelina Jolie – has written with searing honesty about undergoing a double mastectomy.

Jolie (37) revealed today that she made the decision to have both of her breasts removed after she was diagnosed with an 87pc change of developing breast cancer, as well as a 50pc rick of ovarian cancer.

Having lost her mother to breast cancer, Jolie, a mother of six, decided to take preventative measures in the face of a "faulty gene".

Her partner, actor Brad Pitt (49), was by her side for each of the procedures.

In a moving letter to the New York Times entitled My Medical Choice, Jolie told how she inherited the faulty gene BRCA1 from her late mother, Marcheline Bertrand, who fought the disease for 10 years.

"My doctors estimated that I had an 87pc risk of breast cancer and a 50pc risk of ovarian cancer, although the risk is different in the case of each woman.

"Once I knew that this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimise the risk as much I could. I made a decision to have a preventive double mastectomy."

 

public

The Hollywood actress and humanitarian explained that she has gone public with her ordeal in an attempt to help other women "living under the shadow of cancer".

"I wanted to write this to tell other women that the decision to have a mastectomy was not easy. But it is one I am very happy that I made.

"My chances of developing breast cancer have dropped from 87pc to under 5pc. I can tell my children that they don't need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer."

Losing her 56-year-old mother to cancer in 2007 was, according to the actress, the darkest period of her life.

Bertrand, who was married to actor Jon Voight in the 70s and had two children, Jolie and her brother James Haven, was a Hollywood actress and producer.

Mother and daughter were incredibly close and Jolie has spoken of her great admiration for her mother.

"My mother was a full-time mother. She didn't have much of her own career, her own life, her own experiences. Everything was for her children.

"I will never be as good a mother as she was. She was just grace incarnate. She was the most generous, loving – she's better than me."

Jolie wrote how losing her mother to cancer was a factor in her decision to have a preventive double mastectomy.

And she admitted that her children had often asked her whether she would develop cancer, like their grandmother.

"My mother fought cancer for almost a decade and died at 56," she wrote.

"She held out long enough to meet the first of her grandchildren and to hold them in her arms. But my other children will never have the chance to know her and experience how loving and gracious she was.

"We often speak of 'Mommy's mommy' and I find myself trying to explain the illness that took her away from us.

"They have asked if the same could happen to me. I have always told them not to worry, but the truth is I carry a 'faulty' gene, BRCA1, which sharply increases my risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer."

The actress began her treatment in February and underwent the final of three procedures at the end of April.

"I started with the breasts, as my risk of breast cancer is higher than my risk of ovarian cancer, and the surgery is more complex.

"My own process began on February 2 with a procedure known as a 'nipple delay', which rules out disease in the breast ducts behind the nipple and draws extra blood flow to the area.

"This causes some pain and a lot of bruising, but it increases the chance of saving the nipple.

 

reconstruction

"Two weeks later I had the major surgery, where the breast tissue is removed and temporary fillers are put in place. The operation can take eight hours. You wake up with drain tubes and expanders in your breasts. It does feel like a scene out of a science-fiction film. But days after surgery you can be back to a normal life.

"Nine weeks later, the final surgery is completed with the reconstruction of the breasts with an implant. There have been many advances in this procedure in the last few years, and the results can be beautiful."

In the letter she also paid tribute to her partner Brad Pitt, with whom she has been in a relationship with since 2005, who she said has been "loving and supportive" during her ordeal.

She added: "To anyone who has a wife or girlfriend going through this, know that you are a very important part of the transition.

"Life comes with many challenges. The ones that should not scare us are the ones we can take on and take control of."

hnews@herald.ie


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