Sisterhood Blog

Thank You, Angelina Jolie

By Renee Ghert-Zand

  • Print
  • Share Share
Getty Images
Angelina Jolie

The personal piece actress Angelina Jolie published today in the New York Times should put to rest any question as to her seriousness. Say what they will about her in the tabloids, it is clear from her sharing that she has recently undergone a preventative double mastectomy that she is a woman of conviction.

Convinced that she has a better chance of living a long life without her natural breasts (she has had a series of three surgeries, the last being reconstruction with implants), Jolie has gone where most, if not all, other Hollywood actresses would not. I guess it’s hardly surprising given that she, as UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, has already readily traveled to dangerous places.

Jolie carries the BRCA1 gene mutation, common among Ashkenazi women. Her mother also died of cancer at age 56. And so Jolie, only 37, decided to not wait to see if she would eventually develop breast cancer herself. She wrote that doctors originally told her she has an 87% risk of breast cancer and a 50% risk of ovarian cancer. “My chances of developing breast cancer have dropped from 87% to under 5%. I can tell my children that they don’t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer.”

Reading Jolie’s piece in the Times immediately made me think of an interview I did with Drs. Jerome Groopman and Pamela Hartzband of Harvard, the husband-wife team who wrote “Your Medical Mind.” In the book, they analyze various patient mindsets and attitudes toward medical decision-making. We all fall somewhere along three continuums: maximalist-minimalist, believer-doubter, and technologist-naturalist.

Jolie, with her belief in taking radical action to fight the odds, appears to be (at least in this case) a maximalist-believer-technologist. I so admire her for that. Our medical minds, as Groopman and Hartzband call them, are often hardwired into us due to factors relating to both nature and nurture. But that’s not to say that we cannot change our outlook.

Going public about her preventative double mastectomy, Jolie has shed star-wattage light on the issues of BRCA screening and the surgery option. There are women who have firmly decided that they do not want to be screened, or that they do not want to undergo preventative surgery. But there are others who are either in the dark or on the fence. And for that reason, despite whatever criticisms we may have about celebrity culture, we should be thankful to Jolie for heightening awareness of the options women have.

Thanks to her piece in the Times, people will soon forget about her leg and focus on her breasts — which is obviously exactly what she wants, and something I would imagine most women, in this case, would have no qualms about.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: sisterhood, jewish women, angelina jolie, genetics, breast cancer, BRCA1

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • The rose petals have settled, and Andi has made her (Jewish?) choice. We look back on the #Bachelorette finale:
  • "Despite the great pain and sadness surrounding a captured soldier, this should not shape the face of this particular conflict – not in making concessions and not in negotiations, not in sobering assessments of this operation’s achievements or the need to either retreat or move forward." Do you agree?
  • Why genocide is always wrong, period. And the fact that some are talking about it shows just how much damage the war in Gaza has already done.
  • Construction workers found a 75-year-old deli sign behind a closing Harlem bodega earlier this month. Should it be preserved?
  • "The painful irony in Israel’s current dilemma is that it has been here before." Read J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis of the conflict:
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.