Diary of a Surgery
March 24, 2015 12:12 AM   Subscribe

Angelina Jolie Pitt writes about her decision to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes at the age of 39 -- 10 years younger than her mother was when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. This comes two years after her decision to have a double mastectomy.
posted by Ragini (55 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
Hope she stays well.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 12:53 AM on March 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


Amen.

Is this concern a credible one, though? "I was full of happiness, although the radioactive tracer meant I couldn’t hug my children." Surely any radiation that could be transmitted by a hug would be minuscule.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:51 AM on March 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


I could see that concern. Good for her, these health decisions are difficult and she is very courageous.
posted by clavdivs at 2:13 AM on March 24, 2015 [5 favorites]


Angelina Jolie's Perfect Game

When she announced her double mastectomy, I had the thought: "This is how the William Gibson posthuman celebrity future begins." Now I'm certain.
posted by strangecargo at 2:27 AM on March 24, 2015 [13 favorites]


The most important thing is to learn about the options and choose what is right for you personally.

This is so important. Good for her for making the right choice for her, and for encouraging everyone to do the same.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:39 AM on March 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


Joe, it depends on the radionuclide she's being scanned with, its half-life, and its affinity for sensitive tissues. Glucose tagged with radiofluoride for an ordinary PET scan has a half-life of less than 2 hours so it's not a big concern after the first few hours, but I-131 has a half-life of about 8 days and an affinity (obviously) for thyroid, so it's a bigger deal ( I-123 is sometimes used for thyroid scans because its half-life is only 13 hours.) She's probably just getting 18-F-FDG and it's just playing it safe (everyone errs on the side of caution with exposing kids to radiation), but probably even waiting a few hours for a hug under the circumstances is distressing.
posted by gingerest at 2:51 AM on March 24, 2015 [19 favorites]


Anne Helen Petersen is a features writer for BuzzFeed News. Petersen has a Ph.D. from the University Of Texas and wrote her dissertation on the gossip industry.


Whoa, I wanna read that!
posted by oceanjesse at 3:01 AM on March 24, 2015 [7 favorites]


Also, I hope she recovers well.
posted by oceanjesse at 3:13 AM on March 24, 2015


It's refreshing to see celebrity used to deliver such a valuable message. Women receiving this news need to be reminded to stop and think, and that second and third opinions are important. So thoughtful and calm , this is a good addition to the bewildering thicket of writing that women confront when they get this information and need to learn enough to have an informed opinion.
posted by wenestvedt at 3:18 AM on March 24, 2015 [3 favorites]




[A couple comments deleted. We've had quite a few derails here already for some reason; perhaps if people want to discuss the Petersen dissertation, that could be posted if it hasn't been already. ]
posted by taz (staff) at 4:58 AM on March 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


Her openness is great, but I do wish the article did not include endorsements of alternative medicine.
posted by schroedinger at 5:12 AM on March 24, 2015 [11 favorites]


Good for her, these health decisions are difficult and she is very courageous.

I get that this is well-meant, and I don't want to rain on good intentions, but I kind of hate this trope. I have been through a life-threatening surgery (although less life-threatening than many), and I've talked to people who have also had major surgeries, and courage is never the term people use. In my experience, preparing yourself for surgery requires attention, analysis, organization, and a kind of brute endurance. Courage doesn't come into it because, usually, you have no other option except continued injury and/or death. If anything, the need to put on a brave face is for family, friends, and coworkers, not for yourself; you are just working your way through a tiresome set of tasks and hoping that you have chosen correctly.

Where I think she has shown considerable courage is in how public she has been about this, considering the damage it could do to her in the world of body-obsessed popular media. I wish her well and applaud her for putting herself out in public for other women wrestling with these decisions and fears to see that they are not alone.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:14 AM on March 24, 2015 [46 favorites]


She states that even with hormonal therapy she's gone into menopause. If those hormones don't kick in she'll start looking very different soon. I do find it courageous to make that decision in such a looks obsessed town as Hollywood.

Not to mention feel different. I went through a temporary hormonal issue where I started experiencing hot flashes. I couldn't believe how awful it was. I remember thinking. THIS is what women have to go through if they live long enough? Oh god. I probably have about 15 more years before menopause comes for me and I will pray every day they'll be a cure for it by then so I don't have to deal with those hot flashes.
posted by rancher at 5:32 AM on March 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


Her openness is great, but I do wish the article did not include endorsements of alternative medicine.


I think she did it in a very diplomatic way: the first mention is sandwiched in between "discussing options with doctors" and "mapping my hormones for estrogen or progesterone replacement"; and then later "Some women take birth control pills or rely on alternative medicines combined with frequent checks" (emphasis mine). And, finally "In my case, the Eastern and Western doctors I met agreed that surgery to remove my tubes and ovaries was the best option".

The article makes it pretty clear that her primary course of action is "Western"/ evidence-based, and that this isn't a problem that you can solve by solely using alternative treatments. It's a good debate tactic: acknowledging that the other position exists, but very gently showing that it's not the way the go, is better than "Hey, dumb dumbs, don't try this 'alternative medicine' mumbojumbo". Which, might go over better with skeptics who are already on board with that sentiment, but isn't going to do much to change other people's minds.
posted by damayanti at 5:34 AM on March 24, 2015 [17 favorites]


I dunno Genji. I've had a quite a few surgeries. Several were pretty big (6+ hours). I don't know what you call it.... But I was fucking terrified. And yet I went ahead and had the surgeries knowing it was for the best.

Every time I read about courage and bravery it's about being scared and doing it anyway. Plenty of people are so scared they never go to the doctor, or just do alternative medicine treatments and woo....but looking down the barrel of a gun that's a surgeons scalpel that's going to cut you from gizzard to gill, and saying..."Do it." That felt fucking courageous to me.

"Surviving" illnesses/ cancer, nah, that's not courage. "Fighting" "winning" etc are all bullshit unhelpful words. But courage facing surgery? I'll fucking take it. I was more scared of some of those surgeries than my actual condition/tumour. I was more scared than a human should ever be. Damn right I want a fucking medal for my courage. And when I face the one with 15% chance of survival some time in my future.....the one that killed my mother.....I want a fucking knighthood.
posted by taff at 5:38 AM on March 24, 2015 [78 favorites]


(Oh crud. Was that a bit too sweary? Sorry. I'm Australian. It's a national sport here.)
posted by taff at 5:51 AM on March 24, 2015 [22 favorites]


I think it definitely takes courage to make the decision to do something radical, and what she's decided to do is indeed radical. She's not taking the path that cowardly people like me traverse (oh, let's just wait and see); she's done something pre-emptive but with enough evidence to show that even this early in her life there are clues that her body was going to rebel against her anyway, given time. That takes guts.

She's acknowledging that there are people who, regardless of all evidence to the contrary, believe that alternative methods are an option and saying that they need to keep testing, stay aware. She's saying that past a certain point, you have to sometimes accept that the radical is necessary in order to survive.

I hope she gets to see her grandchildren - what an amazing Grandma she'd be!
posted by h00py at 5:58 AM on March 24, 2015 [6 favorites]


I've had some surgeries myself and don't want any fucking medals (I get those for fucking).
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:14 AM on March 24, 2015 [9 favorites]


How extremely fortunate Jolie is to be able to afford invasive preventative surgery without being plunged into bankruptcy, and to have access to doctors willing to perform this surgery without expressing condescending, patriarchal attitudes towards her reproductive ability. Remember that these are privileges too rarely afforded to women in America.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:21 AM on March 24, 2015 [49 favorites]


I don't think many American women are likely to forget that.
posted by h00py at 6:27 AM on March 24, 2015 [18 favorites]


How extremely fortunate Jolie is to be able to afford invasive preventative surgery without being plunged into bankruptcy, and to have access to doctors willing to perform this surgery without expressing condescending, patriarchal attitudes towards her reproductive ability.

This was pretty much my thought reading this article.
posted by Librarypt at 6:31 AM on March 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


The NY Post must be disappointed that she didn't choose a full hysterectomy. They had the headline "WOMB RAIDER" all ready to hit the presses.
posted by dr_dank at 6:34 AM on March 24, 2015 [13 favorites]


The article makes it pretty clear that her primary course of action is "Western"/ evidence-based, and that this isn't a problem that you can solve by solely using alternative treatments. It's a good debate tactic: acknowledging that the other position exists, but very gently showing that it's not the way the go, is better than "Hey, dumb dumbs, don't try this 'alternative medicine' mumbojumbo".

It's a good move in terms of advocacy, yes, but there is some reason to think Western medicine could learn a bit from the way alternative medicine approaches patient-healer relationships. Treatments need to be evidence-based, but care and conversations probably need to be rooted in an understanding of community, family, and culture. The presentation of the way Jolie made her decision here, as you point out, is a good example of doing that.
posted by kewb at 6:41 AM on March 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


angelina jolie never said she thought this was heroic, so maybe we can cool it with whether or not you'd want a medal in her place. she also never indicated that this was something just anyone could walk in and get - in fact, i'd bet she has a better handle of what medical options are available to women around the world better than most of us in this thread.
posted by nadawi at 6:43 AM on March 24, 2015 [44 favorites]


I would be really curious to know if there were similar dismissals on the basis of privilege in the last few threads about articles in which men have discussed their medical care. I really get the sense that privilege has become a go-to way to dismiss the voices and experiences of women, specifically, and I find the disparity to be a bit gross, to be honest, even if the point is correct.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:50 AM on March 24, 2015 [24 favorites]


When she announced her double mastectomy, I had the thought: "This is how the William Gibson posthuman celebrity future begins." Now I'm certain.

Wait, what? There's a world of difference between what Jolie did (submitting to a regularly-performed medical procedure to head off cancer), and some faded simstim star uploading themselves to a mainframe, or marrying a holographic dating sim, or Fingal-doppeling into an anteater or whatever. Not having breasts =/= posthumanism.
posted by Strange Interlude at 6:53 AM on March 24, 2015 [13 favorites]


I am going through breast cancer treatment right now and my doctors were very frank about the ongoing, lifetime risk that comes along with a positive BRCA mutation. I am fortunately negative, but if I wasn't I would have been encouraged to have the surgeries Angelina Jolie has had, and I would have done it in a hot second (and my middle class, employer-provided health insurance would have covered it, so I don't think her being rich and famous applies much here). I really don't see her decisions as that radical in the context of the way this stuff is understood in the oncology community (if her doctors are anything like mine, that is). It's the option that makes the most sense if you want to avoid dying of breast or ovarian cancer.

I have always found her celebrity image really obnoxious, truth be told, and am having a lot of confusing empathetic feelings toward her right now. If she can use her personal experience to encourage more women to get tested and take steps to protect themselves, I have to admire that.
posted by something something at 6:57 AM on March 24, 2015 [9 favorites]


How extremely fortunate Jolie is to be able to afford invasive preventative surgery without being plunged into bankruptcy, and to have access to doctors willing to perform this surgery without expressing condescending, patriarchal attitudes towards her reproductive ability. Remember that these are privileges too rarely afforded to women in America.


To her credit, she acknowledge the financial issues in her op ed two years ago, and touches on reproductive issues in this one:

I feel deeply for women for whom this moment comes very early in life, before they have had their children. Their situation is far harder than mine. I inquired and found out that there are options for women to remove their fallopian tubes but keep their ovaries, and so retain the ability to bear children and not go into menopause. I hope they can be aware of that.


As a young cancer survivor, this is huge, because the main issue I've heard about is not doctors being concerned about preserving fertility; rather the potential deleterious effects of treatment on fertility are often not discussed or disclosed thoroughly to the patient. Obviously, this can go the other way in preventative treatment, but in both cases, the attitude at the source is the same-- the doctors know better than the often female patients about what's best for them. Having open, honest discussions about treatment, and about taking an active role in one's treatment like the ones that Jolie is trying to start will hopefully change some of those attitudes.
posted by damayanti at 6:57 AM on March 24, 2015 [12 favorites]


I am always personally annoyed with myself for forming opinions about the sort of people celebrities are, so I try really hard not to. But every time Jolie gets headlines again, for making a hard choice, and using the considerable resources of her name, her money, her privilege, and her staff to assist in executing those choices, I find myself again impressed by what seems to be self-awareness and a firm respect by Jolie for what her considerable resources do for her.

It's a hard choice and I hope her candor about it changes the experience for women who don't have the respect, staff and deference of a woman with fame, a famous husband, and lots of money.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:16 AM on March 24, 2015 [11 favorites]


Two things.

First, talking about patients having "courage" doesn't mean they square their jaw while an invisible breeze makes their hair ripple. It's more like they don't collapse gibbering in fear but instead just get through it. "Courage is doing what you're afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you're scared." ~Edward Vernon Rickenbacker

Second, with regard to the thought How extremely fortunate Jolie is to be able to afford invasive preventative surgery without being plunged into bankruptcy..., doesn't the same law (Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998, a.k.a. the WHCRA) that forces insurance companies to cover all the associated costs of breast cancer also include this procedure? This link suggests that it does. (But yeah, no one should have to consider money when making a choice this serious.)

(Angelina Jolie used to annoy me with her calculated perfection, what with being gorgeous and successful and married to America's Hunkiest Hunk and adopting kids form Africa and whatnot -- but when she went public with her details and decision-making, I largely changed my opinion.)
posted by wenestvedt at 7:54 AM on March 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


GenjiandProust: I get that this is well-meant, and I don't want to rain on good intentions, but I kind of hate this trope. I have been through a life-threatening surgery (although less life-threatening than many), and I've talked to people who have also had major surgeries, and courage is never the term people use.
"Courage" is also a word the soldiers who win combat medals seldom use. I don't really think self-description is an accurate reflection of courage.

Someone who voluntarily chooses major surgery to avoid potential, not-at-all guaranteed problems is courageous.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:54 AM on March 24, 2015


As a member of SAG (and the DGA), Jolie would most likely have a good health plan. I think her coming forward about her motivations is the real act of courage.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:12 AM on March 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


Well, yes, the ACA is supposed to provide this care, without cost, but in practical application, I don't know if it plays out that way. And in any event, paying for the treatment (and as people have pointed out, preventative mastectomies or ovarian removal may not be considered covered treatment, I don't actually know) is only the beginning of the stress on a person, her finances, her family, her career.

I mean, I have a great job and an understanding boss, no children (or aged parents) to care for, but months and months of scary medical visits, surgery and recovery would be more than my job could absorb in absences and failure to get tasks done. FMLA is unpaid leave and my household would have a hard time weathering the loss of my income.Then, if I lost my job or had to resign it, I'd almost certainly have a difficult time finding a new one. My husband could not stop working for a year to care for me; we could not hire someone to care for me. I'm lucky in that my mother who is in good health and active (albeit in her 70's) lives just about an hour away and could help out. Vast swaths of people don't have that.

It's a lot like jessamyn's fine response to this ask.me: the cascade of consequences of major illness are quite different for highly privileged people. Why this is different for Jolie is not as simple as having good health insurance or the money to cover the gaps in health insurance. The illness is still the same; the decision is still heart-wrenching; the difficulty is still her difficulty and one for which she deserves great empathy and care. But the potential for disaster in her life as a consequence of major illness--and even her choices in facing that illness--are significantly lower than a person without her resources (of which, her fame and her beauty are not inconsiderable).
posted by crush-onastick at 8:14 AM on March 24, 2015 [13 favorites]


Every single individual faces challenges in their own unique way. Whilst Angelina Jolie may not be bankrupted because of her potential illness, she still lives with the loss of her mother at a relatively early age, she still has the worry of perhaps having passed on these genes to her biological daughters, she still has undergone major surgery to try and prevent her own possible early death.

Money, prestige, celebrity - I'm an actual poor person and I don't begrudge her any of it and I also don't think having all that has made what she's going through any easier (except, as mentioned before, the fact that she's unlikely to become bankrupt).
posted by h00py at 8:34 AM on March 24, 2015 [14 favorites]


I'm an entirely unabashed Angelina Jolie fan. I love that she has wrested her personal narrative out of the hands of all the parasites that seek to exploit her, and I love that she uses her celebrity to highlight real problems and issues and spark discussions like (among other things) the one we're having here about options and procedures for healthcare that affect women only or mostly women, because she has a big megaphone and the medical and insurance fields will find it more difficult to reflexively brush away or minimize specific concerns when somebody with her fame uses it to bring this conversation to the attention of the world via the NYT and other big media, plus every tawdry bloodsucking tabloid (she's using THEM, yessss!) and the entire internet. I wish the best for her in all her pursuits.
posted by taz at 8:38 AM on March 24, 2015 [15 favorites]


Whoa whoa whoa....what is this bio-identical estrogen patch she wrote that she's using? I thought FDA's position on BHRT was clear?
posted by discopolo at 9:36 AM on March 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


"The phrase bioidentical hormone therapy has been recognized by the FDA and the Endocrine Society as a marketing term and not one based on scientific evidence," says ACOG Back in 2012. Also it's all over the FDA site that bioidentical is a marketing term.

And the last time I heard it, it was from Suzanne Somers on an infomercial.

I love AJ, I think she is so brave, but there needs to be some footnote on how bioidentical is a marketing term. I can just see patients rushing to their docs demanding bioidenticals instead of regular MHT. Shudder.

I expect AJ to be a little more rigorous in her word choice. I want to know more about this patch she's using and whether it's FDA approved and if so, what classification because it can't be bioidentical.
posted by discopolo at 10:00 AM on March 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


I take hormone replacement therapy, including micronized 17-beta estradiol and micronized progesterone. As far as I'm aware, these are referred to as "bioidentical" to position them as separate from old conjugated estrogens from horse urine (which are not identical to natural human estrogens) and medroxyprogesterone acetate (also not precisely the same as natural progestins).

This kind of estrogen (my kind), has, to my knowledge, generally outmoded the horse-derived kind as it's somewhat safer. It's available in patches, tablets, gels - you name it. I've used both brand name (Estrofem) and generic micronized tablets and brand name (Estradot) patches. Medroxyprogesterone acetate makes me hopelessly depressed, while "bioidentical" progesterone does not. (YMMV, obvs.) I have been on this stuff a while and had never heard of any kind of controversy around the term.
posted by Corinth at 12:07 PM on March 24, 2015


Okay, having read your ACOG link more closely I think it's just a different use of the term? I didn't know that marketers were using "bioidentical" to mean something other than the FDA-approved 17-b estradiol and progesterone I've been taking, so I read Jolie's use of it as completely in line with my experience. I don't think she was trying to promote woo-woo bad science with it.
posted by Corinth at 12:18 PM on March 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


I had the thought: "This is how the William Gibson posthuman celebrity future begins." Now I'm certain.

My feathers are ruffled at the implication that women without breasts or ovaries are somehow post-human.

And snippiness about Jolie's access to health care is also fairly annoying. My wonderful lovely co-worker had a double mastectomy about 6 years ago after a breast cancer reoccurrence, and is scheduled for a hysterectomy in a few weeks, because she has masses behind her uterus. Her doctors are fairly sure the masses are not cancer, but they recommended this preventative surgery.

I assure you that neither she nor I are Hollywood stars or anything near so fancy. I also assure you that our accessing doctor-recommended health services is not an act of oppression.
posted by Squeak Attack at 12:32 PM on March 24, 2015 [9 favorites]


I don't think she was trying to promote woo-woo bad science with it.

Oh, I have no doubt she probably doesn't know. But, as a student doing my doctorate in pharmacy, I'm mainly curious what she's using and where she got it and who told her about it in the first place and why she chose it over standard MH(R)T.

The mentioning it isn't her fault; but man I do not envy docs tmrw and afterwards. I'm sure some compounding pharmacies might benefit, yikes.

I adore her. I don't think it's intentional. I wonder if the wealthy can be a burden because the extra choice of consulting a naturopath (and I have a friend of a friend I greatly admire who happens to be one and gives good advice on treating low level illnesses).

I also wonder if it's hard to help a wealthy patient because you can't say "That might be nutter butter stuff," or if she actually had her hormone levels tested to see if it's working or not. This is all just incredibly interesting to me.

I'm also thinking of Steve Jobs and his fruitarian diet for his pancreatic cancer.

But who prescribed and advised and okay-ed a BHRT and also, how does the NYTimes not footnote it as a controversial term?
posted by discopolo at 12:32 PM on March 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


i understand you have a specific interest, but she doesn't owe us the exact name of her drugs, the particulars of the advice from her doctors, or who prescribed what. even as she's being forthcoming, she does have a right to be vague about whatever she wants.
posted by nadawi at 12:43 PM on March 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


i understand you have a specific interest, but she doesn't owe us the exact name of her drugs, the particulars of the advice from her doctors, or who prescribed what. even as she's being forthcoming, she does have a right to be vague about whatever she wants

Well, obviously she doesn't owe anybody anything but she chose to mention a pretty controversial HRT by using the term bio identical. Using that term means it may or may not be safe and efficacious for use, and if I and my colleagues have to face horde of patients demanding I dispense one to them or call their doctor and get them to change their scrip because of this mention and the patient's jaunt over to Suzanne Somer's site, then I'd like to be able to know what Angelina's acquired.

And fine, at the end of the day, I'll sell you whatever you want, but don't be mad at me if the homeopathy or bio identical or whatever didn't cure what ails you. But I would have to figure out how to respond to patients questions with as much info as possible, especially if they argue that AJ has one and they want to know about it.
posted by discopolo at 1:13 PM on March 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


(For those interested in Helen Anne Petersen, this is a really excellent interview with her about her decision to leave academia to be BuzzFeed's first feature writer, a position it seems like they basically created just for her.)
posted by skwt at 1:16 PM on March 24, 2015


This is a pretty significant derail now, but my point was that given my own experience with these drugs and many people who take them, "bioidentical" is used to refer to 17-b estradiol and progesterone in opposition to the dated conjugated equine estrogens and medroxyprogesterone acetate. I expect she's using the term the same way I've heard it used, which still seems consistent with the definition in your link:
Bioidentical hormones include commercially available products approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), such as micronized progesterone and estradiol, as well as compounded preparations that are not regulated by the FDA.
I'm fairly plugged into several communities of women who talk extensively about these treatments and I've never heard anyone intentionally referring to anything other than boring old 17-b estradiol and progesterone. My doctor also used this terminology when talking about MPA vs. "bioidentical" micronized P. I guess you can be concerned about what patients might come in and ask you, I'm just letting you know that the colloquial usage I'm familiar with is not something that has to do with weird compounding pharmacy stuff. Maybe it's different in ultra-rich cis communities, but Christ, I already have a hard enough time accessing the plain jane meds I need.
posted by Corinth at 1:33 PM on March 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


Wait, what? There's a world of difference between what Jolie did (submitting to a regularly-performed medical procedure to head off cancer), and some faded simstim star uploading themselves to a mainframe, or marrying a holographic dating sim, or Fingal-doppeling into an anteater or whatever. Not having breasts =/= posthumanism.

My feathers are ruffled at the implication that women without breasts or ovaries are somehow post-human.

I debated how to properly word this last night. I understand why many people immediately engage with this on an empathic level. However, I find this news (and particularly, its delivery) fascinating in the context of the nature of celebrity and the craft with which Angelina Jolie handles her own messaging, which is why I tried to give context with the link to the AHP article.

I also find that the idea of electing to undergo preventative organ removal in order to extend your life and overcome the flaws of your own body touches upon some of the concepts that posthuman literature likes to explore. I'm not saying that Angelina Jolie is post-human; I'm saying that the original news about her double-mastectomy made me think about how far science and medicine have progressed*, that I can see how the sudden societal sea change that we assume would be required to arrive at the posthuman futures depicted in speculative fiction may actually seem mundane and unnoticeably gradual in reality. This, combined with the incredibly public announcement (and AHP's analysis of Jolie's messaging) made me feel like I was living in a William Gibson novel for a moment. Hence: "Aha! This is how it starts," intended only semi-seriously and with a bit of whimsy.

*The conversation in here regarding treatment specifics also reminds me that hormone therapy can be construed as a form of body hacking.
posted by strangecargo at 2:26 PM on March 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


strangecargo, I appreciate the explanation, but I'm not convinced. Preventative surgery is nothing new, and while there's recent genetic testing methods contributing to Jolie's decisions, her family history alone would've promoted similar decisions in the past.

I'm interested in her using her celebrity as advocacy in this area, and also how she's using her specific image as a beautiful woman to challenge mainstream notions of femininity and womanhood, but I don't think her case is a definitive step towards a Gibsonian future.
posted by Squeak Attack at 3:10 PM on March 24, 2015


I'm not sure what you're saying strangecargo but as someone who has made similar (and different) decisions about surgery to Anjelina Jolie.....but I feel a bit judged and less fucking human from your comment/s.

I see that's not what you're trying to do...but bloody hell, I just wanted to live longer. To live long enough to see my own kids as adults. My first massive surgery was at 20. I wasn't trying to fight nature (whatever that means), I was trying to fight death. I was a fucking scared kid. Not an an automaton....a kid. And that was just my first surgery.

Wanting to live is a pretty ancient and natural thing, isn't it? Sort of healthy for the ongoing-ness of the species.

I'm human and ...well, I find your comments....well, fucking dehumanising.
posted by taff at 3:17 PM on March 24, 2015 [9 favorites]


How extremely fortunate Jolie is to be able to afford invasive preventative surgery without being plunged into bankruptcy

I tend to regard this as a story that needs telling. How often do we read about women's reproductive issues and women's health on the front page of the newspaper? I don't think it would be easy for any woman, including Jolie, to be so open about this sort of surgery (and the potential implications it will have on her sexuality, perceived or otherwise).

So all in all, it's a net positive.
posted by Nevin at 4:27 PM on March 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


I honestly hope I didn't discount the very real, very human drama of Jolie's experience, or yours, taff.

The medical terminology she uses in her op-ed are all part of a modern vernacular that we've learned to be comfortable reading, if not comprehending. I was trying to point out that the science and medicine behind this story, when described using different language, through the lens of futurism, turns from the mundane texture of modern life into something a little alien. That we can experience our own personal dramas and crises without thinking about how strange it all is, that is why the bewildering "future" is already here.

No, I don't think we're inevitably headed towards a Gibsonian future. The wild extrapolation required to get from here to there was an attempt at humor.

Also, I'm sorry if this was a derail. It looks like the link I posted mostly resulted in (now deleted) discussion about the author, rather than Jolie, whose management of her own public image I find to be fascinating. In the context of the AHP article, I had a hard time reading the op-ed without thinking, "What's the messaging?"
posted by strangecargo at 6:23 PM on March 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


i agree with you, strangecargo, that there is a very interesting aspect to this which concerns celebrity and image cultivation and branding. I took your Gibson comparison for exactly that.

I also agree that it can be difficult to frame that conversation, when it concerns an illness that can be so lethal and a (perceived by many as radical) medical decision. Especially because the conversation about image-making or public appearances as performance will tend to negate the human experience of fear, loss, pain and uncurated decisionmaking.
posted by crush-onastick at 6:36 PM on March 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's ok strangecargo, I didn't think for a moment that you meant to have that effect. We're good. I'm actually a bit stunned that I have so much in common with Angelina Jolie (although I'm a different kind of gene mutant) and that we had so many similar thought processes. I have never looked at her and identified with her. I usually enjoy her films and if I swung that way, she'd totally be my pop crush...but I never saw parallels. And now I feel an unexpected kinship and I want to hug her and high five her (and yeah, get medals with her for our courage in the face of big scary shit). It's nice to feel connected to other humans, I don't usually expect it with someone so ridiculously famous. But yeah, I know what she's been through -ish, and I salute her. And me.

When I feel proud of her, I allow myself to be proud of my own self. And I'd never parsed it like that before I entered this thread. I was brave. I can do brave stuff. Yup. Feeling good. Thanks to Angelina, Gengi and strangecargo.....you've been (fucking) therapeutic for me. I needed a boost this week. Big hugs, possums! I bloody love this place.
posted by taff at 8:41 PM on March 24, 2015 [5 favorites]


When celebrities bring their personal medical situations into the light, there are always comments about privilege and plenty of money for treatment, but a closer look shows that those celebrities bring attention to medical conditions that badly need it. No one paid any attention to Parkinson's Disease until Michael J. Fox was hit by it; his foundation is now the top research facility in the country for PD.

Ovarian/fallopian tube cancer is one that's been called a "hidden" cancer because it's so rarely caught until it's at a very advanced stage. Only within the last decade have they learned the connection between the BRCA gene and ovarian cancer - that's a BIG deal, folks, and it's come to light because important people/celebrities have had breast cancer and ovarian cancer. I've lost two friends to ovarian cancer and right now a very special friend, who's only 48, is recovering after having 60% of her liver removed in her latest surgical attempt to stop ovarian/colon (who knows which was first?) to omentum, uterus and liver, with lung "spots" also. She's not a famous person, but thanks to the famous people who have brought these things to the fore, she's being treated with new ideas and new treatments. That's one very significant point about celebrity cancer stories.

It's true or very nearly true that all insurance companies are paying for pre-emptive surgery for women with positive BRCA genes; if it isn't true for all yet, it will be soon - even if the greed of insurance companies is taken into consideration, it's obvious that they'd have to put out ten times as much money for cancer surgeries and treatments than they'd have to put out for a hysterectomy or mastectomy. And let's face it - it IS about the money.

I notice also that Angelina has, on many occasions, acknowledged her own privilege, never tells anyone else to do what she's done but instead advises people to do what's best for themselves, and significantly, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are outstanding philanthropists - they share their wealth abundantly and stand for justice and fairness, without being self-righteous about it. I admire both of them very much and I hope, deeply, that this will prevent cancer for Angelina.
posted by aryma at 9:10 PM on March 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


Let's leave the medical debates aside for a moment.

I think Jolie has been incredibly brave in not just doing what she has done but trying to raise awareness in doing so. She is an absolute wonder given the superficial industry/world she lives in.

Brangelina were perfect fodder for Hollywood mockery -- divorces, third world adoptions, power couple... but guess what? Not only have they held it together they have demonstrated real integrity, been public with health issues but NOT in the interest of self-promotion. In the interest of the greater good.

It's great that this conversation is happening. And it's happening because of her.

Not kidding, Jolie might just be a saint.
posted by raider at 5:03 PM on March 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


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