Today has been a morning full of signs thus far.
By now my new friend Melinda should hopefully be through her breast cancer surgery.
In the supermarket this morning the man behind me was buying a Happy Anniversary balloon and a beautiful and giant bouquet of white and yellow roses – today is their anniversary.
I got waylaid in traffic by a funeral cortege, and then I read the New York Times Op-Ed by actress/director/activist Angelina Jolie about her double mastectomy due to her familial history with breast cancer and an active BRCA gene.
The last sentence in her essay (which I will share an excerpt of at the bottom) hit home. She said:
Life comes with many challenges. The ones that should not scare us are the ones we can take on and take control of.
Her words are quite profound, and I will be honest I found tears running down my face after I finished reading what she had written. It is no secret I am often critical of celebrities and how they treat breast cancer. Not so with Angelina. I can only applaud her for the raw honesty and dignity in how she has treated this. I know quite a few previvors and they are amazing and brave women.
So my birthday today has been full of many signs. I see them as all positive. They seem to show me quite a few stages of life and the reality therein. Some could take them as negative given the fact a woman I know had breast cancer surgery earlier this morning and I saw a funeral cortege pass by me, but why? I see it as positive that Melinda is dealing with her cancer and that she is having surgery at a low stage. As for the funeral cortege, in the midst of sadness is the ultimate celebration of life. Yes we mourn when someone passes, but we also celebrate who they were and how they touched our lives, don’t we?
It’s like today I bore witness to all these vignettes of life and how is that a bad thing? After all, my life is so much better than it was, so how can I complain?
Today I begin my 49th year. I am hopeful it will be the best yet!
Here is Angelina Jolie’s editorial:
MY MOTHER fought cancer for almost a decade and died at 56. 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.
My doctors estimated that I had an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer….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, I finished the 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 I am writing about it now because I hope that other women can benefit from my experience. 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….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 87 percent to under 5 percent. I can tell my children that they don’t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer.
It is reassuring that they see nothing that makes them uncomfortable. They can see my small scars and that’s it. Everything else is just Mommy, the same as she always was. And they know that I love them and will do anything to be with them as long as I can. On a personal note, I do not feel any less of a woman. I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity…For any woman reading this, I hope it helps you to know you have options. I want to encourage every woman, especially if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, to seek out the information and medical experts who can help you through this aspect of your life, and to make your own informed choices…..I choose not to keep my story private because there are many women who do not know that they might be living under the shadow of cancer…..Life comes with many challenges. The ones that should not scare us are the ones we can take on and take control of.