It’s been, rather oddly, an Angelina Jolie kind of week.
Strange, to have the not-so-private life of a Hollywood sex goddess actor/director take up so much of my time and headspace, especially since my Hollywood actor/director headspace is usually — and much more minimally — devoted to Robert Downey Jr., and you can make of the information whatever you will.
But since Jolie’s disclosure in the New York Times that she had a prophylactic double mastectomy (and breast reconstruction) in the wake of discovering she’s BRCA1 positive, I’m guilty as what seems to be the rest of the Western world of weighing in, at least slightly, on the implications of that news.
On Tuesday, my carefully orchestrated workday was derailed when CBC syndication tapped me to do a round of interviews on the subject — my mom was a BRCA1 carrier, and I was tested for the mutation and made a documentary about that process 2006.
Yesterday, I wrote a bit more about Jolie over at Today’s Parent (the personal):
I didn’t have to make the same decisions that Angelina Jolie and countless other women have had to make. I’m profoundly grateful for that. I don’t pretend to know anything more about Jolie’s decision-making process than what she has disclosed so eloquently in the New York Times — but I’ll speculate at least this much: She knows what it’s like to lose a mother. She’s seen up close what it means to have — and die from — cancer. She wants to see her children grow up.
Today, I have another post (the political), over at Ms. Magazine’s blog, in which I discuss two of Jolie’s body parts that aren’t her breasts:
What I haven’t seen, however, in my admittedly inexhaustive review of the reactions to Jolie’s disclosure, is much in the way of discussion about another surgery the actor/director alludes to: oophorectomy, or the (preventive) surgical removal of her ovaries. Jolie notes that she has a 50 percent chance of developing ovarian cancer. “I started with my breasts,” she says, “as my risk of breast cancer is higher than my risk of ovarian cancer, and the surgery is more complex.”
It would seem that Jolie is planning to have her ovaries removed at some point, in a procedure that, while less medically complicated than her breast surgery, is—in my opinion at least—equally, if not more, significant.
And my question is this: In the event that Angelina Jolie has her ovaries (and likely her uterus) removed, will we care as much as we do about her breasts?
Oophorectomy, while not as readily “visible” as mastectomy, is a radical procedure, thrusting women into immediate surgical menopause. In addition to the obvious negation of fertility, the sudden and dramatic change in hormone levels can have several side effects, including changes to sex drive and function, metabolism, mood, bone density and muscle mass, and cognitive function. The surgery and its potential effects are a big deal—but we wouldn’t know that by the amount of ink and bandwidth devoted to it in relation to Jolie.
Please read, and let me know what you think. Wishing you all a weekend of good news.