Steph, who had a preventative mastectomy to reduce her risk of breast cancer, welcomes Angelina Jolie to the sisterhood.
First off, can I call you that? Ange? Because we’re practically sisters at this point. I’ll take that as a yes. Moving on.
Until yesterday, Ange, you and I had approximately three things in common: we are both, ostensibly, of the same species; we both married very good looking men (Hi, honey! You are my Brad); and we both wear shoes. And that’s pretty much where it ended.
But today, you and I are twinsies! Blood sisters! Members of a sorority neither of us wanted to join. Like you, I have a BRCA mutation and, like you, I had a preventative mastectomy to reduce my risk of getting breast cancer. (I’ll stop short of inferring that you followed my lead, but no, on second thought, I’ll go ahead and call it: you totes copied me. Ange! It’s OK! All the cool girls are doing it.) As Sue Friedman, founder of the indispensable resource and advocacy group Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered, likes to say, we are happy to have you but sorry you need us.
Since you are the newest—and most glamorous—of our community of mutants I wanted to give you some unsolicited advice.
1) Don’t listen to the haters
Ange, as a mega celeb, you undoubtedly have a thicker skin than most. Remember that whole Team Aniston/Team Jolie thing? Yeah, me too. And guess whose team I’ve always been on? Yours, Ange! Anyhoo, haters gonna hate. And there will be many who question your choice. There will be those who say it’s extreme, it’s radical, it’s barbaric. But you stand tall (preferably in a black gown with a sky-high slit) and stare ’em down, girl. Because it’s nobody’s call but your own.
2) Take off your clothes
I mean you’ve done it before. Hello! Remember “Gia”? So do most men in America. But now that you’ve had this surgery, showing you are comfortable and still know you are beautiful is more important than ever. Our scars, Ange, are badges of valor. And we are beautiful and whole and every bit as feminine and womanly as we were before surgery. You have a chance to show all the women out there like us that we can make difficult choices and emerge stronger for it.
3) Keep up the conversation
Ange, mad props for coming out in the New York Times. Paper of record, girl? You go. But please don’t stop talking now. Though you have always been fiercely private, now is not the time to retreat into seclusion in one of your chateaux in France. You wrote “For any woman reading this, I hope it helps you to know you have options.” But here’s the thing, Ange. Those options are pretty shitty, you know? Like you, I chose mastectomy because it seemed like the best of a pretty crappy list of choices. But there has got to be something else out there, something that will make our choice one day look as draconian as blood letting. What is that elusive cure? Gene therapy shows promise, but much more research is necessary. If only a super-wealthy person affected by this condition would make a sizable donation to BRCA research…Let me know if you think of anyone, Ange. But in all seriousness, this is not a choice I hope my daughters will have to make, and I’m sure that you would do anything to ensure that your children, of whom you write so lovingly, have better options when their time comes to face their risk. You have the power to change their fate in the same way you changed yours.
In closing, Ange, I’ve always admired you, except briefly when you were creepily making out with your brother at the Oscars that one time, and I think you seem like an awesome mom, partner, and advocate. Today you showed the world how brave you are, and for that I commend you endlessly. You have done more for our cause in one op-ed than we could have done alone in a decade. So, on behalf of all the ladies in the sisterhood of fake breasts, I thank you.
Your fellow badass,
Steph and her fake boobs live in Chicago with her husband and small army of felines. She blogged about her journey from genetic testing to mastectomy and life thereafter at goodbyetoboobs.com and has written in the past for Role/Reboot about her surgery. For more information about hereditary breast and ovarian cancer please visit facingourrisk.org.