Week 20: Hero – Angelina Jolie

by Jackie_South on May 19, 2013

hero_icon2This week we are awarding our Hero accolade to actress Angelina Jolie

On Tuesday, Hollywood megastar and the woman Vanity Fair dubbed ‘the most beautiful woman in the world‘ wrote a sober yet deeply moving article for the New York Times, entitled “My Medical Choice“.  In it she calmly set out why she took the decision to have an preventative double mastectomy given her mother’s ten year fight with, and death from, cancer and the fact that she had inherited the BRCA1 faulty gene that in her case meant that she had an 87 percent chance of developing the disease.  The procedure reduces that chance to under 5 percent.  She describes how wanting her children not to worry that she would die, in the same way as their grandmother, played a crucial role in that decision.

Her decision to go public on the operations, which lasted between 2 February and 27 April, was similarly brave.   “For any woman reading this, I hope it helps you to know you have options. I want to encourage every woman, especially if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, to seek out the information and medical experts who can help you through this aspect of your life, and to make your own informed choices.”

Whilst her own genetic preposition to cancer is comparatively rare and she is not advocating unnecessary preventative operations, she is showing that even ‘the most beautiful woman in the world’ and one half of the planet’s most glamorous couple can make a choice like this and get on with her life.

And getting on with her life is something she has done with gusto.  Rather than spend those three months between the procedures convalescing, as most people would do, she has carried on her work as the Special Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.  In March, part way through the series of operations, she was visiting refugee camps in Congo with William Hague.

Inspirational is an overused and much abused world.  But there is no doubt that Jolie’s bravery in her choice, how she told the world and how she carried on with her humanitarian work during the process is truly that.

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