Angelina Jolie Recalls Watching Her Mother's Decade-Long Cancer Battle Before Her Death at 56
"I'm hoping my choices allow me to live a bit longer," the actress said of her 2013 preventive double mastectomy and removing her ovaries and fallopian tubes
Angelina Jolie has often been candid about her family history with breast cancer and her own personal experiences with the disease.
In a new emotional essay for Time, the actress and regular contributing editor for the magazine, reflects on her journey — opening up about the tragedy of losing her mother and grandmother, and talks about her own preventative procedures.
“I simply feel I made choices to improve my odds of being here to see my children grow into adults, and of meeting my grandchildren,” Jolie wrote of her decision to get a preventive double mastectomy and later to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes in her essay for the outlet’s Health edition following the Time Health Summit. “My hope is to give as many years as I can to their lives, and to be here for them.”
The Maleficent: Mistress of Evil actress, 44, is a mother to her six kids with ex-husband Brad Pitt: Maddox, 18, Pax, 15, Zahara, 14, Shiloh, 13, and 11-year-old twins Knox and Vivienne.
“I have lived over a decade now without a mom. She met only a few of her grandchildren and was often too sick to play with them,” Jolie continued. “It’s hard now for me to consider anything in this life divinely guided when I think of how much their lives would have benefited from time with her and the protection of her love and grace. My mother fought the disease for a decade and made it into her 50s. My grandmother died in her 40s. I’m hoping my choices allow me to live a bit longer.”
Jolie’s mother died of breast and ovarian cancer in 2007 at age 56. She also lost her aunt to the disease in 2013, the same year Jolie decided to get her double mastectomy — a decision she came to after genetic tests showed she carried a mutated BRCA1 gene, predisposing her to the possibilities of developing breast cancer.
Two years later, an ovarian cancer scare led the Academy Award-winning actress to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes as well.
“People also ask how I feel about the physical scars I carry,” Jolie wrote. “I think our scars remind us of what we have overcome. They are part of what makes each of us unique. That diversity is one of the things that is most beautiful about human existence.”
She added, however, that “the hardest scars to bear are often invisible, the scars in the mind.”
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Jolie recently paid a visit to the Institut Curie — France’s leading center in the fight against cancer — where she spent time with young patients and their families, and also met with doctors to discuss the latest discoveries in breast and ovarian cancer research.
“All the patients I met at the Institut Curie said the care and support of their loved ones was the most important factor in their ability to cope with their illness,” the actress revealed in her essay. “And here the picture is troubling globally, particularly for women.”
She used the rest of her piece to address the significance of mental health in cancer treatment also highlighting the disparity that women face when it comes to “mental and emotional health.”
“I have learned that when it comes to women’s health, medical advances are only one part of the picture” she said. “Mental and emotional health, and physical safety, are just as important.”
Jolie added, “I understand now that we often focus on the specific cancer or illness affecting a particular woman, but miss the bigger diagnosis: her family situation, her safety and whether she is carrying stress that is undermining her health and making her days much more difficult.”