In 1998, when I was moved by the HBO biological movie Gia, starring Angelina Jolie, about the brief and tragic life of a real fashion model named Gia Marie Carangi, I knew for a fact that Jolie was going to be the next best thing on the silver screen. She was irresistible and I, along with millions of other people on the planet, fell in love with her talent. Carangi had become depressed after the death of her agent and desperately needed help for depression and substance abuse. Jolie portrayed her character as both lovable and troubled.
My second Jolie experience was seeing Girl Interrupted, in which Jolie was yet again lovable and troubled. My admiration of Jolie remained intact and maybe even swelled a bit. If she was already considered famous by then, it didn’t matter because Gia was still fresh in my mind as her first effort.
I’ll admit I have a tendency to rebel against trends or people who become too popular, although it didn’t happen with The Beatles, Leonardo DiCaprio or David Bowie. But if you ask me about The Rolling Stones, the Harry Potter books, Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie, the tendency kicked in hard. Suddenly I began to feel like I was overdosing on Jolie’s image against my will, held down by some invisible hand. And once she married Brad Pitt, I thought I was truly finished with her. Yet, lately I suspect she has the kind of courage I can’t help but respect, even in a Hollywood actress holding the world by her fictitiously maleficent fingertips. I mean, what type of woman says “I do! I do!” when asked if she’d like to have surgery to remove large chunks of flesh and organ? Apparently, Jolie is, but only because she’d rather go under the knife (or laser) than endure a cancer diagnosis and have to face the possibility of an untimely death. It was undoubtedly proactive to have both breasts, fallopian tubes and ovaries removed knowing cancer might render her a “mother interrupted.”
Another admirable move was announcing her double mastectomy to the public by writing a New York Times op-ed piece in which she wrote, “I did not do this solely because I carry the BRCA1 gene mutation, and I want other women to hear this. A positive BRCA test does not mean a leap to surgery. I have spoken to many doctors, surgeons and naturopaths. There are other options. Some women take birth control pills or rely on alternative medicines combined with frequent checks. 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.”
“In my case, the Eastern and Western doctors I met agreed that surgery to remove my tubes and ovaries was the best option, because on top of the BRCA gene, three women in my family have died from cancer. My doctors indicated I should have preventive surgery about a decade before the earliest onset of cancer in my female relatives. My mother’s ovarian cancer was diagnosed when she was 49. I’m 39.”
And I’m 46 and something tells me it’s high time for a full physical. If you haven’t been lately, you might also decide to make that appointment you’ve been avoiding.