Today Angelina Jolie discussed the removal of her ovaries and fallopian tubes in an op-ed article in the New York Times. I never liked Angelina Jolie as an actress, but I never disliked her. I never followed her in the news, I never went out of my way to watch one of her movies, and I didn’t have the need to know much about her. I knew a few things about her, like she was Jon Voight’s daughter and Billy Bob Thornton was cheating on his fiancee (who supposedly didn’t find out until Billy Bob and Angelina were married) with her. She was just kind of…there. Eventually I saw more of her in the media not because of her movies, but because of her humanitarian efforts, her growing family, and health issues.
But it was because of these things that I started to feel like she wasn’t just basking in her celebritydom; I realized that she was very human, very big-hearted. Even during her failing marriage to Billy Bob she proceeded to adopt her first child at the age of 26. I can’t imagine celebrities at that age (Daniel Radcliffe or Taylor Swift) caring for a baby. Clearly she had other priorities in life.
As I learned about her decision to undergo a double mastectomy because of a cancer scare, I applauded her. I’ve known women who’ve gone through the same procedure and it’s such a life-changing experience. I also know many women who have survived cancer and the threat becomes a part a part of you forever. So when Angelina Jolie decided to proactive to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes.
[…] two weeks ago I got a call from my doctor with blood-test results. ‘Your CA-125 is normal,’ he said. I breathed a sigh of relief. That test measures the amount of the protein CA-125 in t he blood, and is used to monitor ovarian cancer. I have it every year because of my family history.
But that wasn’t all. He went on. ‘There are a number of inflammatory markers that are elevated, and taken together they could be a sign of early cancer.’ I took a pause. ‘CA-125 has a 50 to 75 percent chance of missing ovarian cancer at early stages,’ he said. He wanted me to the surgeon immediately to check my ovaries.
I felt awful for her. She has chosen let everyone know about her health problems, HIPAA be damned. She wasn’t Angelina Jolie the sex symbol, the stunning daughter of a well-known actor, or the wife of Brad Pitt. She was me: a mom who would do everything in her power to see her children grow up, a scared wife who called her husband immediately when she got the bad news from the doctor, a woman who will make the best decisions she can for herself and everyone closest to her.
I then wondered, “How would I feel if I were her?” I remembered when my own mother had a hysterectomy. I was probably too young to understand, but she had gone through something similar upon finding lumps in her breasts and uterus. She chose not to tell me anything until she was sure the lumps were nothing, but was forced to tell me about the hysterectomy because of her hospital stay. What I remember her saying later was, “At least I’m done having children.”
Done having children. That stayed with me for a long time. When she said it, it didn’t matter to me because I didn’t want kids (of course that changed when I met Ryan). I remember her saying that as if it was a life sentence for herself. Yes, she had children, and physically, if she remained healthy, she would have been able to keep bearing children for years after that. But to have that option taken away from you is heartbreaking. Being a female, we are built to pass on our DNA, to give life, to ensure our species lives on. That is what we do, evolutionarily speaking. We are drawn to the opposite sex, we flirt, we fuck – all to ensure humans continue to thrive on Earth. But when you make the choice to cut your child-bearing years short, it puts you in a depressive state. I know that feeling my mother felt, I know that my time, like hers, like Angelina Jolie’s, is done.
What good were we if we couldn’t have children? is probably a question that has gone through the minds of the possibly millions of women who’ve gone through these types of deals. I know it did mine. Were we even women anymore? Yes! My body parts don’t make me a woman! It’s the way I make my man’s heart melt when I hold him when he’s having a crappy day at work. It’s the way I don’t sit with my legs open in public. It’s the way I keep my head high during adversities. It’s the way I absorb the stressors of everyday life and not to sweat the small stuff. It’s the way I pass on recipes and cleaning tips as well as teaching my daughter how to pin up her hair per military standards. It’s the way I do not groan or quibble when something has to get done.
There was an overwhelming sadness that came with willingly taking away the ability to stop procreating. And it was our choice. We chose to halt Mother Nature’s process (lactation, menstrual cycles, pregnancy, estrogen production, and in Angelina Jolie’s case, being forced into menopause because of her fallopian tubes and ovaries’ removal). We chose our health. We chose to adjust to a certain way of life (i.e. receiving hormone therapy). We chose extend our lives so that we may be with the lives that we’d already created.
Read Angelina Jolie’s Diary Of A Surgery