And so we, the men of the world, are offered a window into our own futures.
Angelina Jolie has had a double mastectomy.
The news is racing around the world because Ms. Jolie is a celebrity. But not just any celebrity. The remarkably high level of public awareness of Ms. Jolie’s surgery, is linked to her particular way of living with and leveraging her and her husband’s fame. With her typical purposeful determination, Ms. Jolie has gone public in a op-ed in the New York Times titled My Medical Choice delivering a clear and unambiguous statement intended to raise consciousness about an inherited gene mutation from which she suffers.
In summary, women with this genetic defect in BRCA1 have a 65 percent risk of getting breast or ovarian cancer, on average. Jolie wants women to know that can be tested for this defect and, if they choose, avoid the higher risk of cancer it brings.
Angelina Jolie is married to Brad Pitt. They have half a dozen children. A week doesn’t go by that they aren’t on the covers of tabloids across the world as symbols of gorgeous Hollywood glamour.
She wrote New York Times:
My doctors estimated that I had an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer, although the risk is different in the case of each woman.
Meanwhile the rest of us have all been raising our kids and running to the store and doing what we do to live our lives. Occasionally we glance up and there she is on our televisions. “Oh, yeah, that was the movie where she played a spy. Right. What was that, 2005?” we ask ourselves, as we pick up the Legos and toss mismatched socks in the laundry bin.
Ms. Jolie goes on the write:
I am fortunate to have a partner, Brad Pitt, who is so loving and supportive. So to anyone who has a wife or girlfriend going through this, know that you are a very important part of the transition.
And so, we, the men of the world, are offered a window into our own futures. Because someday, if not already, each of us will take the hand of one of the woman in our life, (mother, daughter, wife, child) while she deals with the terrors of mortality. It is an opportunity to fully experience life even as the threat of an ending hovers, however distant.
I have a deep and abiding respect for Jolie and Pitt. They have used their celebrity capital wisely, building housing in New Orleans following Katrina, working on humanitarian issues for the UN in 30 countries worldwide, contributing time and money to dozens of causes while living life and, by all accounts, loving each other and their children.
And as the years roll by, I take comfort in the knowledge that Angelina and Brad will carry on marching the paparazzi strewn sidewalks with their kids, making movies wherein they once again sneer at the unforgiving cameras saying, in effect, “I dare you to not buy what I’m selling, baby.”
I do not pretend to understand what life must be like for them. To be adored and hounded by an obsessive celebrity culture, to spend their lives in a world that is doubtless both suffocating and exhilaratingly liberating all at the same time. Their world is so far removed from mine, it’s almost like living on Mars.
But I can tell you this. On days like this, when I look up and see the kinds of choices Ms. Jolie is making, I respect her and her partner Brad Pitt all the more.
Photo: AP/Matt Sayles