BRCA Positive Breast Cancer Survivor Response to Angelina Jolie’s New York Times Article
First, I would like to thank Angelina Jolie Pitt for sharing her experience and knowledge to help others, most recently in Angelina Jolie Pitt: Diary of a Surgery.
Elie Wiesel once said, “Whoever survives a test, whatever it may be, must tell the story. That is his duty.” I absolutely agree!
I am a breast cancer survivor diagnosed at age 31 (5 years ago) and a mom of 2 young boys. I am also BRCA1 positive. I have been trying to help others by also sharing my experience and knowledge. I had a bilateral mastectomy, reconstruction, and chemotherapy. I am now facing tough decisions regarding my ovaries. It is wonderful to learn from others going though similar experiences. If you’ve ever had a medical issue, you know there are a variety of opinions on treatment, prevention, surveillance, and more. Angelina says, “There is more than one way to deal with any health issue. The most important thing is to learn about the options and choose what is right for you personally.” I appreciate Angelina Jolie and all of the others that have chosen to be open about their health and share personal details.
I feel as though my ovaries are a ticking time bomb. At the age of 36, I’ve been advised by some doctors to keep my ovaries for a few more years to delay the onset of surgical menopause. Not only is surgical menopause uncomfortable, there are detrimental effects to the body such as bone density loss and heart issues. This is why many women are given low dose hormones temporarily after surgery.
So, here I am sitting on this decision like many other BRCA+ women. Yes, I am getting regular scans and blood work, but as Angelina Jolie pointed out, these tests are not great indicators of early ovarian cancer. It is all we have for now.
Just to pass some information along… One theory on the origins of ovarian cancer is that it may begin to develop in the fallopian tubes and then spread. I found out about a study at MD Anderson for BRCA women (Prophylactic Salpingectomy With Delayed Oophorectomy). In the study, women first have only the fallopian tubes removed and then a few years later have the ovaries removed. This delays surgical menopause a few more years, but still perhaps protects the ovaries.
Good luck to all of the women out there facing these tough decisions. My thoughts are with you.
Picture of me last summer almost 5 years after breast cancer diagnosis.
Read more about my breast cancer journey from 2009 to the present here.
If you know anyone having a mastectomy or other breast surgery, these breast cancer recovery shirts are a must-have.
Rachel Belkin is an Austin, Texas blogger, entrepreneur, speaker, freelance writer, and educator. After selling her lifestyle blog for six figures in 2021, she teaches business, blogging, and influencer marketing strategies that helped her build her business on part-time hours. Bylines include MSN, HuffPost, Medium, NewsBreak, and Hometalk. She has been featured on KXAN, Studio 512, Fox 7 Austin, CBS Austin, and other news and media outlets.