Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Out of My Comfort Zone

Well, writing about boobies is not out of my comfort zone, but writing about celebrities is:

Angelina Jolie has made a tough decision that will forever change her life. The 37-year-old actress reveals that she underwent a double mastectomy in an attempt to reduce the odds that she will get breast cancer. In a New York Times column that came out Tuesday, Jolie admits that she had the surgery back in February and the last of the follow-up procedures done in April.

Jolie decided to get the surgery done because she had a high risk of getting breast cancer. "My chances of developing breast cancer have dropped from 87 percent to under 5 percent," Jolie writes. "I can tell my children that they don’t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer." Doctors also told her that she has a 50 percent chance of getting ovarian cancer.

Jolie's partner and the father to their six children has been extremely supportive throughout the experience. "I am fortunate to have a partner, Brad Pitt, who is so loving and supportive," she says. "Brad was at the Pink Lotus Breast Center, where I was treated, for every minute of the surgeries."

I have very mixed feelings about this story. On the one hand, I’m glad that she’s gone public with an alert about breast cancer. It will reinforce the point that anyone, man, woman, rich, poor, can contract this horrible disease: money and fame will not insulate you.

On the other hand, a preventative double mastectomy is not something most people can afford or most insurance companies will pay for, and is a fairly radical treatment even given her 5 in 6 chance of developing cancer. If the upshot of her revelation is an huge spike in double mastectomies, we can be pretty sure that a lot of them were unnecessary, which means a lot of doctors and hospitals got a lot of money for what may have been essentially malpractice.

In the end, I guess this story has more benefits to society than a downside, and so I applaud her decision to come forward and reveal, before some tabloid interviewed a nurse at some hospital, a very personal and compelling story.