Angelina Jolie was particularly scarce in the first half of 2013 -- and now the world knows why. Late Monday, May 13, the Oscar winner, 37, shocked fans with a frank, emotional piece in the New York Times that detailed her bold decision to undergo a preventative double mastectomy.
"This has been a private struggle for her. She put everything else on hold to deal with it," a source tells Us Weekly of Jolie, who opted for the surgery (and subsequent breast reconstruction) after doctors discovered Jolie had an extremely high genetic susceptibility for breast cancer. Beginning in early February, the star underwent several procedures, with her final operation on April 27.
The increasingly private star thought long and hard before revealing the deeply personal story in the Times. "She debated coming out about, it but thought about it a lot and decided she could help others by sharing," the source explains. "It was a very hard decision, but she did it, and is glad she did it. She kept this very quiet until she was ready so she could go through it in peace."
And Jolie, of course, had at least seven VIPs solidly in her corner: fiance Brad Pitt and their six kids. "She discussed it with Brad and a few people in her life but very very few knew. She wanted to wait until it was over," the source explains.
Pitt, who released his own statement of support on Wednesday, "thinks she's incredible and loves her more than ever," the source says. And kids Maddox, 11, Pax, 9, Zahara, 8, Shiloh, 6, and twins Knox and Vivienne, 4 all played a role in her recovery as well. "The kids were wonderfully supportive," says the insider. "Everything she does she does to be there for them."