Jolie, the day after

I follow many blogs written by woman who either have breast cancer, are BRCA positive or have had a prophylactic mastectomy.  Yesterday after reviewing several of those blogs most covered Angelina Jolie in some way of another.  What struck me as very interesting is the wide range of opinions on her story.  Most women like myself who underwent BPM surgery commend Jolie for using her platform if for nothing else to get the conversation about breast cancer risks flowing.

I was very interested in some that took great offense in how for lack of a better word , simplistic Jolie made the event seem.  In her article she makes a statement, “but days after surgery you can be back to a normal life”.  Now, I had a different surgery since my reconstruction was done by DIEP flap surgery cutting my entire abdomen.  This required many different steps be taken including not being able to move a muscle in the hospital for 48 hours and having someone checking for a pulse in my new breasts every hour which was fun for all. (not!)

When I got home I was no where close to back to a normal life.  Honestly there was a great deal of pain, many tears and for many weeks the belief that there would never be such a thing as “normal”.  I remember weeks after the surgery attempting to walk around the block with the girls and feeling like I would not make it home.  I remember being unable to get in and out of my own bed. I could not lift my arms, bend over or lift anything for what seemed like a lifetime.  I could not shower for well over a month because of the drains which left such large scars that shaving was an issue for months.  I could go on and on but the point is the same, it was less than a normal life for a very long time!

Normal.  I guess it is all in how we define the word.  I will be reminded for the rest of my life every time I take a shower.  60+ stitches left a more than noticeable scar across my abdomen.  I had wonderful surgeons whom I would recommend to anyone. Angelina describes her “small scar”, I am sure she had the best medical care that money could buy and she probably had a better outcome from it than many.  I do not fault her for that at all.  All I do is say that I will agree with those who fell she does paint a much rosier picture than what I found to be my reality.

One thing that was normal for me was the fear that after multiple years of biopsies that the next one would be the one to show cancer.  That the next mammogram would be the one.

With that said, the many of use who have shared our stories could never reach the audience that she has with her name recognition.  As I stated yesterday in my post, if her experience results in women being tested, educated and empowered well God bless her for sharing simplistic story and all!  Maybe it will cause women to take to the internet to read more realistic stories of the process. Causing women to act is the important thing.  Get your mammograms, question your history, talk to your doctor.

I thank god everyday that I had the strength to make such a decision.  I too now only have a 5% risk of developing breast cancer.  Even with the worst of the memories running through my head about the surgery and recovery, I would do it again tomorrow.  I look forward to many healthy years with my family!

Me and Angelina Jolie

In the news this morning I learned that Angelina Jolie and I seem to have a lot in common.  Her story is very similar to my own and to all of the women I have met along the way in my time writing this blog.  Chosing to have a bilateral prophylactic mastectomy, to remove a part of your body because it will one day quite probably declare war on the rest of your body.

The difference is her celebrity makes news.  I am glad that she wrote the article in the NY times.  It brings to light the struggle that so many woman have.  Having genetic testing and advanced medical abilities which have allowed so many of us to make a preventative decision to take control of our own medical destiny.  Maybe her sharing the story that so many of us have lived will cause a few more women to have a mammogram.  Maybe a few will open up to their doctors about their family history.  Maybe one day we can finally put breast cancer in the past.

Until then, Bravo to all who share their stories!