I was up early yesterday morning as usual, and hadn’t turned on the TV; and so when I saw Angelina Jolie’s article for The New York Times being tweeted, I clicked on it not knowing what to expect. Her eloquent words on her decision to have a double mastectomy were so honest, and beautifully written, that they reduced me to tears within seconds. I hestitate to call anyone who has had to cope with the prospect of their own impending mortality ‘brave’, ever since the very forthright Lisa Lynch told me she hated being called brave. But which ever way you look at it, Angelina Jolie’s decision to have this operation, and then go public with it is brave.
A few years ago I met Wendy Watson, who discovered she had the BRCA2 gene and was the first woman in Britain to have a preventative double mastectomy. Like Angelina, she went public because she wanted to help save lives. By using her extraordinary celebrity status to highlight the BRCA1 gene, Angelina has ensured many more women will investigate their own health and take whatever action is necessary to try to reduce their chances of developing breast cancer. As she says, ‘I want to encourage every woman, especially if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, to seek out the information and medical experts who can help you through this aspect of your life, and to make your own informed choices.’ Coupled with her humanitarian work it is impossible not to feel incredibly humbled by this woman. All the nonsense that’s been written about her over the years – but she just keeps on getting on with trying to effect change for others, wherever and however she can.
In a week when we’ve heard about increasingly ridiculous celebrity tour riders – the list of things they simply *must* have have before they will perform – Angelina Jolie’s dignity puts every grasping, greedy celebrity to shame.