This morning my inbox was jammed with emails linking me to Angelina’s Jolie’s Op-Ed piece on “My Medical Choice,” so before my Trader Joe’s blueberry waffle made it into the toaster I learned with millions of others about her decision to have a preventive double mastectomy. I thought – awesome, she’s talking about the “C” word – taking a little bit more of the stigma away. It’s still a word that I have trouble using casually – seriously, try throwing that into a conversation. It rarely goes well and usually ends up with me saying, “but I’m fine, I’ll be fine… blah blah just fine, it wasn’t so bad,” just to get that “uh oh” panic look off their face. So honestly, thank you Angelina for that – for raising awareness, for telling your story, for telling us about the emotional impact of the death of your mother from cancer. Thank you for talking about the BRCA1 gene (and how it costs over $3000 – not covered by most insurance) and a little bit about the medical process…
But sister, my breast friend (or breastless friend) I had to put waffle number two into the toaster so it’s syrup covered semi healthy deliciousness could help me cope with the feeling of wanting to COMPLETELY FREAK OUT. Is it me or did she make it sound like she popped over to Beverly Hills for a little nip, a little tuck and skinny soy latte on the way home? She went to Pink Lotus, the amazing place I went to for my cancer, (“but I’m fine, I’ll be fine… blah blah just fine, not so bad.”) It is an incredible place in the center of Beverly Hills with valet parking and fresh flowers, state of the art technology, and wonderful world class professionals dressed in matching pink scrubs with embroidered pink lotus’s and clogs. I know how truly lucky I am to be cared for by the staff there, led by the (can I use the word amazing again?) Dr. Kristi Funk – who I credit with giving me the ability to face my decisions with a glass half full attitude (truly, how can she be so beautiful, funny and smart?!)
BUT – here is why I am seriously considering waffle number three – maybe 1% of 1% (go ahead and fact check me) of women have the means, the ability financially or geographically to have an experience anywhere near this one. It is a difficult, devastating and drastic medical choice and they will not have Kristi to have hope in her eyes while telling them the facts, the flowers will be dusty and artificial and the staff will be over burdened and preoccupied and they will face stacks of medical bills that cannot be stopped. Brad will not hold their hand, they will go through radiation, they will lose their hair, they will discover that having your breasts cut off and replaced with bags of silicone is rarely with out medical complications, ask my friend who had a leak in lefty, or another friend who is livid that at the age of 60 she has two high perky softball boobies (it’s true – she pulled up her shirt “Girls Gone Wild” style and showed me) or me – who spent an entire December trying to save a nipple. (I call it the Blue Nipple Christmas – too soon?) And never without emotional consequences, imagine – never feeling the caress of a lover again, or being able to nurse a child of your own, the piece of you that has been taken and replaced by something artificial. Aliens in your bra.
Cancer is ugly, it’s hard, it’s depressing, it’s scary gross (she kinda glossed by that part about the surgical drains…really, – try going out to a restaurant with balls of your own juices in your pockets) – and it’s different for everyone, Angelina Jolie’s experience is Angelina Jolie’s experience and I understand that and will defend her right to tell it – but I really want to stand on top of my sunny (it is LA) apartment building and yell – “this is the Hollywood version!” It’s just not that easy, women need to know that going in, to talk with other women who have been through it and not think they can survive the experience based on a celebrity version, one that has been reduced to a page that make a bilateral mastectomy seem like the new black. Okay, that sounded way mean, which is probably not the way to go if you believe as I do that everyone should tell the stories in their lives, that sharing these things makes us stronger individually and as a community, but poke me and I bleed dark humor.Tweet