Was Angelina Jolie Being Honest About Her Mastectomy?

Was Angelina Jolie Honest about Her Mastectomy?Every time I hear of a woman being diagnosed with breast cancer or testing positive for the BRCA gene, my heart sinks. I close my eyes and take in a deep breath and hold them in my heart, silently whispering the phrase Namaste (the light in me acknowledges the light in you). I feel all the way to the core of my soul what they are going through or what they are about to go through.

When I woke this morning, I along with the rest of the world heard of Angelina Jolie’s wonderfully easy and glamorous experience with a nipple sparing elective double mastectomy. According to her article in the New York Times, she was back to normal in a few days. Her children have only witnessed tiny scars on her perfectly reconstructed breasts and she wants everyone to know how easy the whole thing was for her. And of course every news anchor is congratulating her for being yet another celebrity who chose to share her courageous decision. Why don’t we ever hear about the dark side of mastectomy? Why don’t we hear that women have a part of their body amputated but the cancer comes anyway. About how surgery can actually increase the risk of the cancer mutating or breaking free and becoming more aggressive? About the emotional toll that this has on women and the suffering that can take place? Why is this information being presented like it is a casual procedure without significant long-term complications?

Can I share the harsh realities with you Angelina? A mastectomy is not the panacea that the surgeons suggest that it is. I tested negative for the BRCA gene, underwent a mastectomy after my second diagnosis with breast cancer and then the cancer returned for a 3rd time in an aggressive invasive form although they had removed my breast and nipple. I have had 16 surgeries on my right breast and my body rejected the implant twice. I am in constant pain, and have not been able to return to work. I cannot even relate to your sugar coated experience and through my blog I have talked to countless women who have had experiences closer to my own. I admire your courage to talk about your decision to significantly decrease your risk; I thought I was doing the same thing when I agreed to be carved up. But were you really being honest? Back to normal in a few days? I’m sad that more women aren’t being totally honest with each other about how difficult a mastectomy is, the risks involved, or the fact that it isn’t the insurance policy that we all hope it will be. I wouldn’t wish my experience on anyone; I wish I had someone who would have shared the other side of the story with me.

43 thoughts on “Was Angelina Jolie Being Honest About Her Mastectomy?

  1. Great post ~ I also had 2 sets of implants which didn’t work for me. I now used my own body for my breasts and it’s been a miracle for me. I HEARTily agree with you about Angelina and the reality for those of us who have endured much more than she.
    Big hugs to you ♥♥♥

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  3. I have only traveled this path from a distance. A reluctant travel companion. Helpless. Angry. Afraid. I have seen the pain. I have witnessed the sadness of loss. I have been touched by the terror of uncertainty. I have seen great strength and courage. I have seen a fearless fight. Acceptance. Even a grace and gratitude that has challenged my core. But I have never seen easy. Never glamorous. Never freedom. I salute my Brave Heart as I do all of you Warriors. I have been blessed to travel this path alongside you.

  4. I have only travelled this path from a distance. A reluctant bystander. Angry. Frustrated. I have seen the pain. I have witnessed the sadness of loss. I have felt the terror of the uncertainty. I have seen great strength and courage. I have seen acceptance. Even a grace and gratitude that has challenged me . But I have never seen easy. Never glamorous. Never freedom. I salute my Brave Heart as I do all of you Warriors.

  5. I feel for you. I had a double mastectomy at 44 after phase 1 invasive cancer. My mother had it, and her mother died from it at 42. I thought about the surgery before my diagnosis and wish I had done it. Angelina does not deserve the bashing she is getting over this. My decision was asy because I avoided chemo and radiation. I had 2 friends diagnosed at the same time that had lumpectomies and chemo/radiation, and BOTH had to have double mastectomies about a year after. Both went poorly. Once you have had radiation all bets are off. Angelina spared herself from all of this. My surgery WAS SIMPLE and I am totally happy with the results. Once you have kids you care more about living than your breasts. And it looks good, too. I hope none of the bashers out there ever had a nose job or tattoos. Mutilation is in the eye of the beholder.

    • I agree each experience is unique and I really did not intend to bash anyone. I really wanted to bring to light all sides of the mastectomy issue. I was shocked and confused when my cancer returned for a 3rd time following a mastectomy that my surgeon said would prevent a recurrence. I also agree that all bets are off when radiation is introduced and I have never cared what my breast look like, but the constant pain is unsettling. Thanks for caring enough to keep the conversation going. When we learn we should teach is my goal.

      • Thanks for opening up the dialog. I don’t know anything about your story, (what stage/kind of cancer? Was the recurrence in the breast?) but I wonder what you think would have been better? Maybe just lumectomies would have been better, or maybe there would have been even more recurrences. You really never know. I just came home from seeing a friend who had stage 3, has now undergone six surgeries and now they want to do another to cut some muscle under her breast to relieve pain in her arm and leg. Wha?? The part I don’t understand is what would have gone better? She is alive, which would not have happened if she did nothing. Maybe a better surgeon? Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be Angelina’s defender, but if a risk can be cut before the cancer is there, it just has to be easier. Removal seems better than the chemo flowing through your body and the five years of tamoxifen. I thought about refusing that, but then if I had a recurrence it would have been my fault. How could I tell my kids! I had a TRAM surgery, which was more difficult, but it was nothing compared to the cancer itself. My cancer was just stage 1 which may be why mine was easier. I truly feel for every cancer patient and the decisions they face. To me, the only easy one is made before. I know I am the minority here, so I just need to vent. If anyone reading this has cancer, I highly recommend Kris Carr’s community. Very supportive and lots of different discussion threads.

  6. Thank you thank you thank you! I posted several pieces questioning the value of BRCA testing in January so I’m not going to blog about it again. I support her decision, and anyone who chooses to have mastectomy for whatever reason, although I’m one of the freaks who did not do it; my stage 3 bigass tumor was shrunk enough by chemo, so I only had to have my nipple and some surrounding flesh removed–pictures on my blog on the page called fables of the reconstruction…because I did NOT do reconstruction, got a cool tattoo instead.
    No, my gripe is with the fact that now everyone is gonna rush out for the test, when the mutation is actually rare. I got the test & negative results, and upon research later, realized how unlikely it was for me to be positive, and wish I’d not wasted the time. Even with my strong family history, I was only 14 to 18% likely to be positive, still under the 20% likelihood of things like being HER2+ or getting a false negative mammo (yeah, that is me on both counts). She gets praise for being proactive. Its hard to be proactive when you’re negative, and then you get cancer, and then everyone who doesn’t understand breast cancer wonders why you can’t be more proactive like that Angelina Jolie.
    And I hate the only prevention offered to the positives is the slash part of the slash, poison, burn plan. Is BRCA really a tool in the so called fight against cancer or just a way for everyone to look like they’re “doing something”.

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  8. I had a nipple sparring bilateral mastectomy on 9/28/12 after being diagnosed with invasive lobular carcinoma. I certainly was not back to normal in a few days and I was blessed to not have to have any radiation or chemo. I’m still working to find my “new normal”. I think that mastectomies should not be “glamorized” because they are far from it!!

  9. Oh Trina, you are so right! I am so glad to see you stand up for the truth. This is crazy and ridiculous to go through this as our reality, but I am just so shocked and disappointed that Angelina Jolie has no brain to think for herself. If cancer is in the genes, than what is it going to help to butcher and take your breast off of your body, since it has been proven that the cells have the intelligence to communicate with each other! We can’t just cut parts of our body, when we know that cells have intelligence and they are all communicating, they are all connected. How can Angelina be so dumb to let those stupid doctors tell her to cut her breasts off, and put in some refined oil packed bomb into her body, and pose in front of all the young girls as a role model, …. what happened to that lady to loose her intelligence… The funny part is that they keep showing Brad Pitt, and commenting the way he feels…. How detached we are… This whole thing is about us, women, not Brad Pitt, and how he is feeling. Women please stop butchering your breasts!! I am proud of my breasts, and I do not see them as a ticking bomb! DOCTORS! LEAVE MY BREAST ALONE!! Start with DETOXING when you hear about cancer! Start with DETOXING. Cancer is a sign that our body needs help with detoxing pesticides, radiation, EMF, heavy metals, mercury, flouride,molds, yeasts, ..that our bodies need more oxigen, more of an alkiline vs. acidic environment, more minerals,…. Our body is WHOLE, our emotions count and leave an imprint on our body, our thoughts count and make path that we walk on, DOCTORS! LEAVE MY BREAST ALONE!

  10. Being a breast surgeon, I completely agree with you. He revelation is going to create more problems than solutions. Indian patients are constantly contacting me and asking about prophylactic mastectomy and reconstruction. Incomplete knowledge can be really harmful and the way the media is portraying it, every woman with a family history is now going to approach us for a mastectomy (which is not the solution).

    • Thank you for your comment. We women need the full story, the honest truth and realistic expectations. A mastectomy is no walk in the park with Brad Pitt sitting next to your hospital bed. And as you said, not the solution for everyone with a family history. Who doesn’t have a family history anymore anyway? Sigh…

      • True…even in India the incidence has gone up to one in 21 patients and invariably everyone has one or more members in the family suffering from breast cancer.

  11. Reblogged this on laurarenegar and commented:
    This post is from a fellow blogger. An honest fellow blogger. I honestly hope Angelina’s news helps shine a light on brca positive phrophylactic surgery – but did she honestly say she was up and around in a few days? Did she just take the entire mastectomy process and cover it with Hollywood BS? Jeeze…

  12. What a great blog post ! I also thought to myself – well goodie goodie for you Angelina…of course your experience was easy and perfect. Of course. I have also had a double due to TNBC and the brca 2 gene and my experience was nowhere near yours, mine was far from Angelina’s also. I have tried to be brutally honest on my blog as well because I think women should know the truth before signing on for what they think is going to be a walk in the park and the will just end up with perkier breasts. Really ? Also, when is Angelina going to have her ovaries removed? Did she mention that ? I haven’t read any of her stuff yet. Wait until she finds out that her sex drive will be removed along with her ovaries. Another beautiful side effect people forget to mention. I am sorry you have had stupid cancer three times. This is the first blog post I have seen of yours and I have to admit as soon as I get time, I will be pouring through it. Thank you for your honesty. I am going to reblog your blog post if that is ok !

  13. Although I don’t believe she (Angelina) was okay after a few days, she had the advantage of no chemo after, as her mastectomy was pre-any cancer.
    One other thing I would just like to say, that the putative link between surgery and recurrence of the cancer is not verified …. so yes it may be true that actually surgery can be worse, but it may also be the only life saver.
    I wish you health and strength all of you.

  14. My fingers itched too when I read this … and like you I too am grateful she is an exception, but like you, I too felt incensed and a little let down by the sugar coating. I had a mastectomy and reconstruction and chemo following a recurrence, and I went to hell and back. There was no back to normal in a few days. There is no longer any normal. They didn’t spare my nipple, or my skin, and I don’t have a lovely new barbie boob as the surgeons tried to sell it. It sucks, all of it, and I wish it on no-one. I have grown and yes five years later I like me more. But it is not easy , it is never easy, and it is not a boob job. And it’s being treated as one. I hate the sugar coating. Remove the fear yes, but not the reality.

  15. Thank you for writing this!
    This has been something on my mind for some time – long before Angelina’s disclosure today – that we are basically told that a mastectomy is not a big deal. In fact, my surgeon acted like I was going to be getting an upgrade – that was how she described it – as if it was a good thing that I was getting my real breasts removed and replaced with implants. And, btw – as anyone who has gone through this knows – it isn’t replacing your breasts – it is nothing like that at all. Needless to say, I fired that first reconstruction surgeon.

    I have contemplated – for the past year or so about writing a post – including photos – of my carved up chest, of what a mastectomy and subsequent reconstruction can look like. I haven’t had the courage to do it yet. But, I want to. I took photos after my first surgery and continued doing so throughout the reconstruction process (which to this day is still not completed – some 3 years later). I want to share this side of things because it is, well, the truth that most of us experience – and it is the truth that I did not hear or receive prior to having a bi-lateral mastectomy.

    I so appreciate your sharing this. And, I am so sorry for what you have had to endure.

    You are so right on with everything you said. We all just don’t have Angelina Jolie access to healthcare. I wish her all the best and I truly hope that her disclosure (which she did not have to do) will work to draw attention to the fact that the rest of us simply don’t have the “options” she spoke of. I am still waiting to afford my fourth surgery to try to make things look somewhat right.

    I am in pain more days than not and I experience more hours of each day in pain than I experience pain free. It just isn’t some simple little procedure.

    Thank you for writing this!

    All the best,

    • Thank YOU Lisa for sharing your story. A mastectomy is a big deal and it makes me crazy when celebs present it as something less. I’m glad AJ got the discussion going. But lets be real, her normal includes nannies, chefs, jets, and drivers, so I’m sure she was back to normal in a few days…My mom was washing my hair in the kitchen sink a few days after my mastectomy bc I couldn’t move my arms…

  16. Trina, You are have been in my thoughts and prayers since we reconnected on FB. You are even more amazing that you can tell your side of the story. I don’t know if I could do what you do after what you have been through.

    Many hugs to you!!


  17. Thanks for writing this. I was furious when I read back to normal “in a few days.” I get letters from women with absolute horror stories. And you are so right to be angry. It just comes down to more “breast cancer is no big deal” that people are now beginning to believe unless they have been there.

  18. Certainly you’re correct, Trina. I can’t imagine why she wrote “a few days.” My mastectomy was 14 months ago, and certainly nothing about the drains, the pain, and the chemo following it could be considered “back to normal.” And now the anti-hormonal drug I’m taking, Femara, puts off “normal” for at least five years, or probably never.

    I suppose people like AJ or like all the doctors and nurses who have encouraged me along the way, paint a rosy picture because the hope of something better in the fairly near future is all that keeps some of us going. I did think, after chemotherapy, that I’d get my life back. No one warned me about the side effects of the anti-estrogen drugs. I had to get onto the internet, to Webmd, and look for Patient Reactions to get the straight scoop on Femara. It’s really pretty grim.

    If somone had told me the whole truth and nothing but at the very start, I wonder if I would have gone through with everything. Maybe not.

    • Thank you Suzy, I do get a little crazy when I see people sugar coating these procedures. The line “Back to normal in a few days.” in the NYT article made my fingers itchy and I typed what I could not hold in. I hear from too many woman who are confused, scared, injured and have really bad long-term problems. She was lucky, or an exception, for that I am grateful along with her, but, I wish I had someone who would have been more honest with me through this journey. I was led to believe I would be just fine in no time as well…

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