In a jaw-dropping and moving op-ed in the New York Times, Angelina Jolie has revealed she recently underwent a double mastectomy after testing positive for the gene that predisposes her to breast and ovarian cancer.
"My mother fought cancer for almost a decade and died at 56," writes the 37-year-old Oscar winner and U.N. goodwill ambassador. "She held out long enough to meet the first of her grandchildren and to hold them in her arms. ... 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."
She acknowledges that the odds were not in her favor: "My doctors estimated that I had an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer, although the risk is different in the case of each woman."
According to Jolie, "Once I knew that this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much I could. I made a decision to have a preventive double mastectomy. 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."
On April 27, she completed "three months of medical procedures that the mastectomies involved. During that time I have been able to keep this private and to carry on with my work."
But she's "writing about it now because I hope that other women can benefit from my experience," she explains. "Cancer is still a word that strikes fear into people's hearts, producing a deep sense of powerlessness. But today it is possible to find out through a blood test whether you are highly susceptible to breast and ovarian cancer, and then take action."
Jolie goes on to describe her surgeries, her reasons for going public and the loving support she's received from Brad Pitt. Read on for more about her gut-wrenching decision ...