One of the hardest things about this cancer journey is realizing my immature behavior. Please know I am not proud of what I’m about to admit. And understand that I write this down for the world to read if only to look at it myself and try to understand it. And that’s just so that I have a shot at getting passed it and through it, so that I can stop feeling like this…
I’ve had numerous people ask me what I think about Angelina Jolie’s decision to have a prophylactic mastectomy because she has the gene that predisposes her to breast cancer. And I have to tell you each and every time I get asked it’s all I can do to not say “Who cares?”
Now of course I don’t truly feel like that about Angelina Jolie. I wish her health and hope always, as a woman. As a mother. As a wife, as a daughter…etc. What’s truly going on for me is this: I feel angry about the world’s attention to a starlet who has every opportunity to tell her story, via a New York Times Op-Ed piece, interviews that will definitely be coming on Oprah, and every single magazine cover in the market today including TIME magazine. I am jealous and upset at the attention her “brave” choice–that’s what the headlines are calling it–is getting. And why is that?
Because: this whole thing crashes up against the reality of my life as it is now. I’m a nobody who can’t get even one speaking engagement unless I happen to be receiving an award at the event. I’m a person who’s been forced to make dozens of “brave” choices for the last 9 years and it’s all I can do to update my website with photos of me and 6 local girl scouts. Meanwhile, Angelina Jolie makes a non-life-threatening decision based on personal medical history and the spotlight shines on her in ways I would give my teeth to have. And what’s ahead? I’ll call it now: Angelina Jolie will be deigned the “woman who helped save millions with her “brave” decision” to remove her breasts and have them replaced. And I’ll be lucky if the folks at the dry cleaners give me back the right shirts.
I know life is not fair. I know it’s not important to be a celebrity. I know this is how society works–what glitters gets attention. And I realize I have helped hundreds of folks in my own small, tiny, itty-bitty way–and with luck I will keep doing so for many years to come. But I am inwardly outraged at life as it is playing out now in the cancer headlines and it has nothing to do with Angelina Jolie the future cancer survivor. Many will listen to her story and read it and absorb it and maybe duplicate it–and save their own lives. Bravo! I am thrilled! How could I not be–it’s exactly what I’m doing. But damn, she sure jumped waaaaaay ahead of me in the make-a-difference category.
So if you ask me about Angelina’s decision to take off her breasts prophylactically and I reply thoughtfully, “It’s her decision. I applaud anybody’s choice to get to their own path of health,” just smile and believe me.
And I will work hard to start to believe me too.