I don’t often follow celebrity experiences with breast cancer. For the most part, they annoy me. They try too much to simplify the experience into a single message – often one that is overly simple, not accounting for the complexities of the disease and the women who have to face it.
It was with this not so positive attitude that I decided to watch the short clip of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt on the today show. I was immediately impressed with the way in which they shared her recent scare. How authentic it felt. There was no preaching about what the “right way” to be a previvor.
Previvor is a term used for those with the genetic mutation (typically BRCA or BRCA2) that puts women and men at significant risk for breast or ovarian cancer, but have not yet been diagnosed with an invasive form of the cancer. I use the term “not yet” intentionally, as some of the statistics for those carrying the gene are staggering.
Since I don’t carry the BRCA gene, I haven’t done much research into that area. I did, however, find a great too created by Stanford Researchers to help women with the BRCA genes understand the different risks based upon their age and treatment options: Decision Tool for Women with BRCA mutations.
I do think the decisions that previvors need to make are in many ways a lot more difficult than the decisions those of us with invasive cancer have to make. I didn’t really have that many choices to make. I had a lot of invasive cancer. All my surgeons agreed that bilateral mastectomy was the recommended surgical treatment. I was not having to decide to remove healthy tissue that may never develop into cancer. I had cancer in both breasts – there was nothing prophylactic about my treatment. I cannot even begin to understand how difficult that decision would be – but Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt do a great job of helping to show the complexity of some of those emotions.