Jolie’s mother, Marcheline Bertrand, battled cancer for nearly a decade before passing away at age 56. Jolie’s grandmother died of breast cancer in her 40s.
Angelina Jolie Pens Essay on Losing Mother to Cancer, Reveals Why She Chose to Get Double Mastectomy
“I remember once holding my mother’s hand, as she was receiving chemotherapy, when she started to turn purple and I had to race to get the nurse,” she wrote in the emotionally raw piece. “As I stood in the hallway of the hospital waiting for my mother’s body to be collected and taken to be cremated, her doctor told me she had promised my mother that she would make sure I was informed about my medical options.”
Due to her family’s history with the disease, Jolie opted to undergo a preventative double mastectomy and had her ovaries and Fallopian tubes removed after testing positive for the BRCA gene mutation.
In part, Jolie underwent the surgery to better her odds of being around for her six children as they grow up. “My hope is to give as many years as I can to their lives, and to be here for them,” she said. “I have lived over a decade now without a mom. She met only a few of her grandchildren and was often too sick to play with them.”
Jolie has been candid about her health and has used her platform to help educate others about their medical options.
“I’m alive, and for now I am managing all the different issues-I inherited-. I feel more connected to other women, and I often have deeply personal conversations with strangers about health and family,” Jolie wrote. “People also ask how I feel about the physical scars I carry. I think our scars remind us of what we have overcome. They are part of what makes each of us unique. That diversity is one of the things that is most beautiful about human existence.”
In addition to regular medical care, Jolie noted that “mental and emotional health, and physical safety” are just as important to address. In some cases, someone may be diagnosed with cancer or another illness, but the broader stresses of their life are overlooked.
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“My mother seemed peaceful when she first knew she had cancer. I now see that in part it was because after many years of stress and struggle, people were forced to be gentle to her.”
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