One of my best friends tested positive for the breast cancer gene mutation (BRCA1) two years ago. She had the testing because both of her Grandmothers had died of breast cancer. She was scared to get the test but she did it. She was 39 at the time and had two sons in middle school at the time.
Once the results came in showing that she had the gene, like Angelina Jolie, she was told that it was way more likely than not that she would get breast or ovarian cancer. She could not live life in fear so she made the difficult decision of undergoing a double mastectomy and reconstruction as well as having both of her ovaries removed.
People with the BRCA1 gene mutation, can't fight off certain cancers the same way that people with "normal" BRCA genes do. Some people with the mutation have up to an 87% chance of getting breast or ovarian cancer.
When she told many people about her decision to have this radical "elective" surgery, they were confused. "Why would she mutilate her cancer free body?", they asked.
She felt obligated to tell her relatives about the results of the testing so that they could decide whether or not to have the test. One of her Uncles forbid her from telling his college-aged daughters. One of her Aunts told her that she was "inviting trouble" by even having the testing.
People, especially some of the people that are supposed to love her the most, did not understand that my friend, like Angelina Jolie, wanted to up her chances of living to see her children grow up. That by taking their medical care in their own hands, they were not waiting for cancer to creep in, they took away the welcome mats.
My friend had a year of grueling surgeries and is now in early menopause. But she is healthy and can sleep at night knowing that she has one less thing to worry about. It is not a guarantee that she won't get some type of disease, but 87% is gone and that is good. I'm very happy that gorgeous Angelina went public with her decision. Education is a good thing. Had this happened sooner, my friend might have had an easier time dealing with her relatives.
I walked with my friend in October in the Race for Cure. I was so happy that she was not in the survivors parade and we could watch is together with all of her curly hair. I was happy that our sons walked with us and saw how breast cancer affects way too many families. Hopefully with more research and education, we can say goodbye to cancer for good someday.