How Brad Pitt Supported Angelina Jolie During Her Latest Surgery to Prevent Cancer

"We've been through so much," the actress told PEOPLE last year

Photo: Andreas Rentz/Getty

Like soccer moms around the globe, Angelina Jolie spent a recent Saturday cheering from the sidelines as her daughters Zahara, 10, and Shiloh, 8, raced up and down the field.

The Oscar winner, 39, and her husband, Brad Pitt, looked relaxed and carefree in the Los Angeles sunshine, but on Tuesday, Jolie revealed a far different truth: She was awaiting word from her doctors on whether she had cancer.

“I passed those five days in a haze, attending my children’s soccer game, and working to stay calm and focused,” she wrote in a candid New York Times op-ed – under the byline Angelina Jolie Pitt, a first for her – addressing her decision to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes.

By her side, as he was during her 2013 double mastectomy, was Pitt, who cut short a trip to France and “was on a plane within hours,” Jolie wrote, after learning she may need surgery.

“We’ve been through so much,” the actress told PEOPLE in 2014. As they raise their six children, “we’ve gotten a lot closer, which I think naturally happens with raising a family together,” she said. “You have history. … You have this person who really knows you, and you know them so well. You’re not lovers or boyfriend and girlfriend as much as you are a family.”

Pitt, 51, has often echoed that sentiment, telling USA Today that he looked back on Jolie’s first surgery as “an emotional and beautifully inspiring few months,” adding that his “proudest thing is our family. This [cancer] isn’t going to get that.”

Jolie herself wrote emotionally about Pitt’s role in seeing her through her mastectomy, calling herself “fortunate to have a partner, Brad Pitt, who is loving and supportive.”

“So to anyone who has a wife or girlfriend going through this, know that you are a very important part of the transition,” she wrote in her 2013 op-ed revealing her preventative surgery. “Brad was at the Pink Lotus Breast Center, where I was treated, for every minute of the surgeries. We managed to find moments to laugh together. We knew this was the right thing to do for our family and that it would bring us closer. And it has.”

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The couple and their kids have spent the past few months at their home in Los Angeles.

“When the family is in L.A., the kids have their schedules with studies and sport activities, including soccer, but Brad and Angie always plan fun outings for the kids, too,” says a family source, adding that paintball is a group favorite.

“They have also had family dinners at several kid-friendly restaurants,” says the source, including Cafe 50s, where the group stopped by for burgers and shakes just before the new year.

Beyond their roles as husband and wife and mom and dad, Jolie and Pitt are also occasional costars, including in the upcoming marital drama By the Sea, which Jolie wrote and directed.

In recent months, the actress has continued to travel the world for her humanitarian work, launching the Centre on Women, Peace and Security at the London School of Economics in February and visiting a Kurdish refugee camp in northern Iraq in January.

In fact, her new NYT op-ed is the second she has penned for the newspaper this year, following her impassioned plea in January for aid for Syrian and Iraqi refugees.

Wherever her various endeavors take her, Jolie has frequently spoken of how much she relies on her husband’s support.

“At 20, we’re all looking for Prince Charming, the big handsome hunk, only we’re generally disappointed because of his instability,” she told France’s Dandy magazine in February. “At 40, you know what you want: a real man.”

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