Actress Angelina Jolie dominated every media outlet recently, not because of a new film or humanitarian effort but because of her powerful op-ed in the New York Times. In the May 14 article titled “My Medical Choice,” Jolie details her preventative double mastectomy at age 37.
With a mother who had breast cancer and died at age 56 from ovarian cancer and she herself a BRCA1 gene carrier, Jolie had an estimated 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer.
As a mother of six, Jolie decided to take action and spend three months undergoing breast removal and reconstruction, dropping her chances of developing breast cancer from 87 percent to under five percent.
“Life comes with many challenges,” she wrote in her op-ed. “The ones that should not scare us are the ones we can take on and take control of.”
Medical professionals are championing Jolie’s choice to go public with her journey, praising her for shedding light on the options that women have in the shadow of alarming cancer statistics.
As a daughter of a breast cancer survivor who carries the BRCA1 gene and a niece of an ovarian cancer survivor, Jolie’s words settled in a very private place in my soul that continues to wonder – Should I be tested? Should I, too, take such drastic measures to protect me and my future family from this horrible disease?
Those are not easy questions to answer, and all of us wrestle with similar questions at different points of our lives.
What if I never get married?
What if I never have kids?
How should I care for my aging parents?
When we let ourselves travel to the land of “what ifs,” we enter dangerous territory. By thinking, “what if I lost my job?” I don’t help myself find a more fulfilling career. By thinking, “what if I get breast cancer?” I don’t make myself any healthier or less cancer-prone.
Jolie clearly stated that her choice was a personal decision that eliminates her own “what if,” but for me and likely you too, you still have many what ifs in your life, some preventable and others not.
What I do know for sure is that if God knows everything from the number of hairs on my head to the very plan He has in store for me, I can be at peace with whichever decision I make tomorrow or a decade from now. Technology saves many lives, but it also causes many people to stop living. I don’t want a potential breast cancer diagnosis to stop me from living my life in a way that glorifies God and fulfills my soul.
Our God is more powerful than the fear of the unknown.