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Angelina Jolie had a preventive double mastectomy...read her brave essay

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by dardar1126, May 14, 2013.

  1. snoopy

    snoopy Team St. Petersburg

    If the benchmark is completely healthy, then no gain. But I am using the benchmark of starting with an 80% chance of getting breast cancer. So the gain is an almost elimination of the risk of getting breast cancer and avoiding the chemo, etc. which other posters have pointed out would be harder than the surgeries. That is a huge gain. And these surgeries - resulted in loss of sensation to be sure - but no loss in appearance (per Brad). So starting from an 80% change of getting breast cancer, yes, this was a net gain for Angelina IMO. And I have had breast surgery so I am not completely unaware of the issues.
  2. michiruwater

    michiruwater Well-Known Member

    Of course it is the right decision and she will gain from it. That's the whole point. But that doesn't mean that, even with her noted bravery, she hasn't had a whole host of anxieties, insecurities, etc., as well as the pain one would expect, etc. You statement came across very callously, and even if they look exactly the same, or even better, that doesn't necessarily make it easy to literally lose a part of yourself. Having reconstructive surgery certainly does not make her decision to have the surgery and to write about it in this way less brave - especially considering that choosing not to have reconstructive surgery would have quite possibly severely damaged her chances of obtaining future roles in a career she obviously loves.
  3. antmanb

    antmanb Well-Known Member

    The reason I'm flabbergasted is not tyhe assertion that there is a lots to gain - of course there is, but rather with your assertion that she had virtually no loss. And I'm still flabbergasted that you think having both breasts removed is no loss :confused:
  4. Karina1974

    Karina1974 Well-Known Member

    One of the members of my college graduating class (and former dorm RA) passed away from breast cancer last year at the age of 34. I wonder what she would have to say about your crass comment. Likewise my cousin and my boss at work, both are breast cancer survivors.
  5. Andora

    Andora Skating season ends as baseball season begins

    I agree. I think a few people I know who've minimized her experience because she had reconstructive surgery seem to assume the new breasts are interchangeable with Angelina's now removed breasts. Imho, they aren't-- she lost a part of her and replaced it with something that is effectively alien to her body, even if it serves a solid purpose. But it's still a loss.

    This is a good point. For women who know their risk is high, I imagine it's as if you're a walking time cancer-bomb. I can't imagine what that must feel like. So for Vash to tell someone that experiences this, "well, just be hyper vigilant" when it's already a tremendous anxiety just seems coarse.

    My initial reaction was wondering if it was a bit exteme. I didn't know you could so drastically minimize your risk instead of just waiting for it to happen while trying to maintain good health in general. I personally learned something very important from this.
  6. Badams

    Badams Well-Known Member

    I can't really believe the way this thread has gone. It isn't like Angelina Jolie is telling all women to have double mastectomies. She's advocating for women to take control of their health, and for things like gene testing etc...to me more affordable and readily available, so women can make INFORMED DECISIONS about their health. A double mastectomy was HER informed decision, she's isn't advocating that it's the ONLY decision.
  7. Louis

    Louis Well-Known Member

    I applaud Angelina Jolie.

    I also think it's very fortunate that there are specific actions she can take to mitigate her risk.

    I also lost a parent to cancer (melanoma) in their early 50s. I have decent odds of a genetic mutation that puts me at the same risk, particularly since I've already had two pre-cancerous spots removed. Problem is, there's not a whole lot I can do differently if the test turns out to be positive. And if god forbid I lost my job, I am not sure I could get private health insurance if my medical records expose me as "ticking time bomb." (My understanding is that the GINA only protects you if you're in an employer-sponsored plan, but I could be wrong -- I'm not up to date on this because I've honestly been procrastinating and trying not to think about this for the past three years.) The regulations also don't cover things like life, long-term care, and disability insurance. I'm not unsympathetic to the insurance industry -- they need to make their profit, after all, and they shouldn't have to give me the same rates if I'm a known risk -- but there is some strategic benefit to not knowing since they can't require the test.

    I'm in a conundrum and procrastinating. Would appreciate any advice from anyone who has gone through a similar decision-making process, either here or via PM.
  8. Zemgirl

    Zemgirl Well-Known Member

    I'm sorry that you had to go through such a difficult experience and empathize with your dilemma now. My take on it is that testing is worth doing if the results will allow to take proactive steps to lessen your risk of either getting cancer or receiving a late diagnosis - e.g. what Jolie did, or if you're at risk for certain cancers you could get ultrasounds or other tests that you might not be referred to without the testing. If there is no such advantage in getting the testing, it leaves you in a problematic situation in terms of insurance, and only gives you things to worry about - well, in that case I think you are better off not doing it at the time being, but of course you should still do regular screenings and checkups and follow your doctor's advice.
  9. OliviaPug

    OliviaPug Well-Known Member

    Me three.

  10. Cheylana

    Cheylana Well-Known Member

    As someone who went through a bilateral mast and recon in June of 2008 (on the cusp of five years cancer-free, yeah!) I can assure you there absolutely is a change not only in sensation (lose virtually all) but also appearance (lose the natural "hang") and feeling (not even in the ballpark of softness as natural breast tissue, no jiggle whatsoever). And I had a very successful reconstruction, my oncologist claims its one of the best she's seen (though I always tease that she probably says that to all her patients). Plus AJ had nipple soaring but the nips most likely won't really respond in romantic settings anymore. Then there are the weird phantom electro-shock-like sensations and itching deep within that can't be scratched. Plus the implant is placed over the chest muscle, so when you flex your chest muscle the implant actually scrunches up. You also have to limit your weight training so as not to distort the implant. And the implants have to be replaced every ten years or so for the rest of your life. Thats guaranteed surgery every decade or so. Don't let anyone kid you on the physical and emotional impact of going under the knife. There is also the risk of infection, implant failure, etc. Kudos to Angelina for putting it all in perspective but an implant is definitely not a perfect replacement.

    Still worth it to reduce lifetime risk of bc from 87% to 5%? Sure. But definitely no small thing.
    AJ Skatefan, mag, OliviaPug and 5 others like this.
  11. skatesindreams

    skatesindreams Well-Known Member

    Add me to the list of people confused by Vash's post..

    Both procedures are major surgery.

    Earlier today AJ announced that she would have her ovaries removed, as well.
    She delayed it because the reconstructive surgery was the most complex of the procedures.
  12. IceAlisa

    IceAlisa discriminating and persnickety ballet aficionado

    I've been wondering about that since her mother died of ovarian cancer, not breast. That means hormone replacement. Speedy recovery.
  13. michiruwater

    michiruwater Well-Known Member

    The higher risk was for breast cancer, which is probably why she went that route first. Either way, it all sounds very hellish, and I wish her the best.
  14. IceAlisa

    IceAlisa discriminating and persnickety ballet aficionado

    Well, it's a difference of a few months and is insignificant. Surgical menopause, OTOH, is no fun.
  15. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

    Rock on to everyone who's survived cancer! :respec:

    Also, not sure if this has occurred to anyone else, but mammograms use radiation. :shuffle: A very small amount compared to chest X-rays, to be sure, but when you're already at nearly 90% chance of getting cancer, it certainly doesn't help. That's why some doctors/scientists suggest women with no risks get mammograms later in life, and less frequently. Frequent screenings can do more harm than good in people who have a normal/low chance to begin with. It's a damned if you do, damned if you don't. Can't get everything.

    One of my friends is in the same conundrum. She's already had melanoma that spread to her ovaries, and fought it successfully. :respec: Every so often, she needs another precancerous mole removed. You're right that there's not a whole lot you can do about melanoma prevention (aside from slathering on that sunscreen and staying inside!), so as long as you are vigilant about moles, I honestly don't think it makes a difference in whether you get tested or not. Especially if it might show up on and affect your insurance.

    Aforementioned friend is in a bind, not ever being financially stable even in her mid-30s, and has consistently chosen life paths/jobs that would guarantee her health insurance. It's the only thing that's keeping her going - she can't lose her health insurance. It's not a fun situation to be trapped in. :(
  16. BigB08822

    BigB08822 Well-Known Member

    It's called "slippery slope" and is indeed a logical fallacy.
  17. cruisin

    cruisin Banned Member

    Louis, I know someone with Lynch Syndrome. Colon cancer at 22. She does have pretty good insurance coverage, and they cover all of the treatments an tests. She needs colonoscopies every 4 months, uterine biopsies every 6 months, and a few more, they fought it, but cover it.
  18. leesaleesa

    leesaleesa Active Member

    Large groups which are or used to be 50+ employees waive the pre-ex clause. Pre-ex is two years, meaning that the pre existing condition is not covered for that time frame, but other coverages apply. If you work for a small group and god forbid get a positive diagnosis, you are out of the pre-ex window if it's been two years, of course. If you were to lose your job and are in treatment, Cobra has to cover you. That theoretically should give you enough of a window to get a clean bill of health, and worst case scenario, you would have to go through 2 years of pre-ex should you obtain employment with a small group again. Please don't put this off, where there's a will, there is a way.

    I know a few people with health problems who work for major corporations doing phone sales in call centers. The work is difficult, but it can pay well, the benefits are great, and it's fairly easy to get hired. No pre ex. It's not a perfect solution, but if you were to find yourself in a bind job wise, it is a way to be able to obtain good and affordable coverage.
  19. Japanfan

    Japanfan Well-Known Member

    Maybe Snoopy was comparing Jolie to non-wealthy celebrities when she said 'lost almost nothing'. It is true that Jolie lost her breasts, which is a whole lot of something, and had to endure the ordeal of going through the surgery and recovering from it, which would the case for any woman.

    But the cost to an average woman would be a lot more in terms of time, dollars, and possibly stress. Jolie doesn't have to worry about income lost due to the cost of the surgeries; about having to take time off from work and the associated loss of income and possible job loss, and; and about getting someone to take care of her children and household while she recovers.
  20. LilJen

    LilJen Reaching out with my hand sensitively

    My sister had DCIS the first time at 45 (lumpectomy & radiation--NOT a fun spring/summer for her). The next year, she got it again, in spite of the radiation. She wasn't eligible for more radiation, and ineligible for chemo. She opted for a double mastectomy, no reconstruction for the reasons many folks have detailed (painful, expensive, repeated surgeries needed). She didn't want to spend the rest of her life worrying. She'd also gone through puberty early and had my nephew after age 35, two other risk factors not in her favor. (She opted against spending $3K for testing.)
    Reconstruction is often very painful and time consuming. It usually means repeated procedures, a great chance of complications, and replacing those implants down the road, several times.

    THIS. Genetic testing isn't covered, but mammograms are. Even with that--it's a struggle for anyone under a certain income level to get a mammogram at all, given time off work, scheduling around multiple jobs & kids' & spouses' schedules, not to mention transportation. It shouldn't be this way, but it is.
  21. rjblue

    rjblue Having a great day!

    Tangential to AJ's decision, but is anyone else following the story of the owners of the BRCA genes and the Supreme Court case to end their ownership? Link to a blog about it- it's also easy to google for information about it.

    Myriad is getting lots of positive publicity in the wake of AJ's revelation, but it seems to me they are motivated by money- this should be a lot more open, and it could still be profitable to research. Also- they receive money for research from Komen- who are not supporting the court case to end their gene patent, so in a way, when I donate to Run for the Cure, I'm supporting the high cost of the BRCA test, and the limits other researchers have on access to it.
  22. Holley Calmes

    Holley Calmes Well-Known Member

    Cheylana-congrats on 5 years! Me too! I was diagnosed in March of 2008, and I just got through my "5 year" mammogram yesterday!! Or at least I guess it went ok because they didn't call.

    I applaud Angelina a lot. But do let me tell you that reconstruction surgery is not always an option. It isn't for me. I'm 63, and I'm not as vain about my tatas as I once was. Plus, since the cancer, every year I have a mammogram, I am faced with the issue of what I would do if they found another DCIS or anything, actually. I have no insurance because since my cancer, what little insurance I can get is exorbitant. I have researched it recently. It should come down some after 5 years cancer-free, but it's still just awfully expensive. And Medicare is 2 years away if they would even pay for reconstruction, which I doubt. Every year I ask myself what I will do if the mammogram doesn't go well. I do believe I would have the mastectomies. But no reconstruction. It would cost tens of thousands of dollars (I have researched it) out of pocket. I can't in good conscience spend that kind of money for new girls at my age. I just wouldn't do it. I don't have a choice. Angelina is wealthy, and she can have the best surgeons and care in the world. I can't. I'm not coming down on her because she "can." Not at all. But do consider that for some, reconstruction is a luxury, not an automatic given.
    snoopy and (deleted member) like this.
  23. Angelskates

    Angelskates Well-Known Member

    Queensland woman delays surgery, develops cancer

    So sad.

  24. MacMadame

    MacMadame Cat Lady-in-Training

    Jolie's income is based in large part on her image which is tied up in her looks and her sex appeal. It's quite possible she will lose roles over this. She definitely could lose money over this.

    I think that makes it very brave of her to be public about what she is going through.
    Habs and (deleted member) like this.
  25. Japanfan

    Japanfan Well-Known Member

    She could lose multiple times the money I'll make in a lifetime and still be a wealthy woman. And I doubt she'll lose roles. As someone else pointed out, her breasts are probably better now than they were before the reconstruction. And she can afford to maintain them and replace them if need be. Her sex appeal won't be compromised.

    She's also in the class of actors who don't have to bare their breasts - I don't know if she has done so, but generally higher paid actresses have more rights to say no to that.
  26. VIETgrlTerifa

    VIETgrlTerifa Well-Known Member

    I think people who are harping about her wealth and future earning potential are sort of missing the point in that life threatening diseases are scary for all people. Yes, it's true that Jolie will never have to worry about having to pay her medical expenses like most women (not to mention being able to afford reconstructive surgery), but it's not as if she didn't pay the same hefty "price" with the initial scare that most likely all women would go through if they were given her prognosis/diagnosis. No amount of money can take away the fear, anxiety, and pain of what she went through.
    Habs and (deleted member) like this.
  27. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

    Exactly. Money can buy you peace of mind when it comes to childcare and not having to work to have a roof over your head, but it doesn't buy you peace of mind when it comes to health scares. I doubt all that many people are focused on loss of income when they're faced with a life-threatening illness.
  28. antmanb

    antmanb Well-Known Member

    That isn't what snoopy said. "Suffered virtually no loss" was (i think) the phrase that was used. And I'm still flabbergasted that someone is trying to defend that. It wasn't set up as if it was about money, and if it was about Jolie being wealthy and therefore vitually losing nothing, then I am even more flabbergasted, that apparently if you are rich and famous you desrve less sympathy for going what through what you have - is the fact you're rich supposed to compensate you for going through a double mastectomy and reconstruction?
  29. milanessa

    milanessa engaged to dupa

    Medicare does pay for reconstructive surgery after a mastectomy.
  30. loulou

    loulou Let It Snow

    We all say over and over that health and love are so important nothing else can replace them. We say that so much they sometimes sound like empty worlds, but they aren't at all.

    That being said, I don't think AJ is as scared as just anyone else when she knows about the gene. She knows she can count on the best doctors, the best cares, she knows she won't have to go pick up her meds or her groceries while sick, she knows her children are well taken care of, she knows whatever doubt, or fear, or reassurance she needs she can probably call a darn good doctor anytime, and he/she will put his/her best effort into her care.

    It's not the case for just about anyone. Some people wonder if their doctors will be good enough, dedicated enough, or what about taking the kids to paly dates, or even who's picking up the groceries.

    -- It's just like being able to pay for the best lawyer team or being stuck with whatever overloaded guy the state appoints for you.

    Health is important to everyone, but some people can go through rainy days with a lot less weight on their shoulders, and a lot more assistance that can relieve their fears.