Angelina Jolie

Over the past couple of weeks, a lot of people have been asking me my opinion on the op-ed that Angelina Jolie wrote about her preventative double mastectomy. First of all, it’s awesome that any of you care about my opinion, so thank you! Second, I think she’s a God damn rockstar and the op-ed ruled.

Let me start by pointing out what I think is its single flaw: She really glossed over the whole mastectomy part of it. I don’t want to scare those of you who may one day need this procedure – it’s saved millions of lives and obviously I am doing fine these days (and looking pretty damn good if I do say so myself, tried on a bikini the other day and my new boobs are rockin’) – but seriously, she covered the whole thing in one sentence, like it was a cavity filling. Maybe my experience was more extreme than others, but I literally couldn’t sit up for nearly a week after my mastectomy. I didn’t shower for like nine days because I couldn’t stand up long enough, and I wasn’t allowed to take a bath. I wore the same pair of pajamas for a fortnight.

And don’t even get me started on the drains. THE DRAINS. They’re like a medieval torture device designed to be as painful and inconvenient as possible, all while also being unbearably disgusting. While I had my drains in, I was on Skype with my friend Danielle and her roommate Megan, and I lifted up my pajama top to show them where the drain went into my skin, and MEGAN FAINTED AND HAD TO GO TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM. True story. That’s how disgusting these drains are.

I hope Angie had an easier time with her procedure than I did, but assuming she had an experience even remotely similar to mine which included a lot of pain, vomiting and Law & Order, I think she’d do us all a favor by just admitting that it really sucked balls there for a few weeks. It’s all fine now and I don’t regret my choice even for one second, but I don’t want to lie to you all. It was miserable for a little while. But 100% worth it.

I also want to take this opportunity to clear up a little confusion about what a mastectomy is these days. When people hear the word – and certainly when I first did – they imagine a scarred, pitted crater where a breast used to be. But Angie and I actually had the same procedure (twinsies! BFFs!), which is a skin-sparing and nipple-sparing mastectomy with immediate implant-based reconstruction. With this option, my new breasts look natural. And awesome. The only thing indicating that they’ve been tampered with is a thin, light scar that runs from the outer side of my nipple to just before my armpit. So when you picture Angie and I as mastectomy survivors, think less sad cancer coffee table book portrait and more Pamela Anderson.

My favorite thing about Angelina Jolie’s op-ed, though, was this line:

I do not feel any less of a woman. I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity.

It’s hard to struggle with a cancer that messes with your sexuality, especially when you’re in your sexual prime (me) or the sexiest woman in the world (also me. Just kidding. Obviously that’s Angelina). And it’s weird to think about my future as a woman when I’m missing one of the defining parts of being a woman, even if no one knows I’m missing it but me. I think Angelina Jolie very eloquently captured the idea that those of us who make this choice do so because we are strong, empowered and determined – qualities that are far more important than breasts when it comes to defining fierce, beautiful, inspiring women.

By the way, my second favorite thing about the op-ed is when she just casually mentions that Brad Pitt is her partner, like we didn’t know. DUH BRANGELINA WE KNOW YOU GUYS ARE ADORABLE.

18 thoughts on “Angelina Jolie

  1. 1. All you say about mastectomy is true. It is very serious misery. Did you get instantly kicked out of the hospital?
    2. From the bottom of my heart I think you are way cuter than Angelina and there is zero chance that she’s funnier than you.
    3. The articles I’ve read about AJ describe an unselfish decision made for her family. It has made me feel kind of shallow and selfish because I’m fighting with triple negative BC and sitting through chemo to save my own ass…..without question or hesitation. This is selfishly about me me me. I just also selfishly expect my loved ones to be all grateful for my continued existence however annoying this might actually be.
    4. You never EVER fail to crack me up.

    • 1. I stayed in the hospital for three days. I would’ve stayed way longer if they’d let me. TV + food + drugs = nirvana.
      2. Haha, thank you!
      3. Don’t worry, my fight is totally selfish too! I don’t have kids yet or any of that biz. I just want to stick around because life is awesome and I have things I want to do, like adopt a puppy and go to Bora Bora.
      4. Thank you so much!

  2. I thought the exact same thing when I read what she had to say, because I thought of what you’ve described and wondered how Angelina could make it seem like a lunchtime procedure..I wish she could have washed over it a little less!

  3. I agree with you. I’ve been rotating through breast surgery and mastectomies are some of the most painful procedures I’ve had to assist in. The first time I read about Angelina’s mastectomy, I also thought that she was glossing over the procedure way too much.

  4. Krys says:

    Agreed! She did very much make it seem like no big deal, when it is. Many of us end up with complications, too, and I’d hate to see anyone else go in like me thinking it’ll be easy and end up with at least a year’s worth of problems. I’m glad Angelina had an easy time of it; I just wish she’d acknowledged that not everyone will.

  5. Barbara says:

    I’ve been waiting for you to comment on Angeline Jolie’s decision. Honestly, despite the accolades in the press, it never occurred to me that she actually wrote the NY Times op-ed. I figured a public relations firm wrote it for her. So what? Anyway, knowing what I know about breast surgery, I too was surprised how the op-ed (intentionally or unintentionally?) gave the impression that the surgery was no big deal—and never mentioned the recovery period and the bad side effects many women experience. I had the impression that the op-ed was all about her asserting herself as an empowered woman—and getting the “news” out on her terms, not the paparazzi’s, which is understandable. I would hate to see, for example, some young woman whose mother died young of breast cancer opt for double mastectomies thinking that the surgery will be no big deal.
    I did not know that there is such a thing as nipple-sparing surgery. It used to be that women who wanted nipples after mastectomies and reconstruction had to get tattoo “nipples.” If nipple-sparing surgery is now routine, that’s fantastic. It seems that, with that technique, you haven’t really lost your breasts—instead, the tissue inside has been removed (I guess)–? Your scars will fade to almost nothing with time (I’ve had four biopsies, two with long incisions), and this major and unwelcome interruption to your young life will be a distant memory.

    • The nipple-sparing and skin-sparing part of the procedure was huge for me. However painful it may have been physically, it was made 100x more bearable emotionally because I never had to see myself any differently (or, at least, not much differently) than I was used to seeing myself. I don’t think it’s quite routine, but in cases like mine and Angelina’s, where having a mastectomy at all could be considered by some overkill, it can often be safe to leave the appearance of the breast in tact.

  6. fransiweinstein says:

    I’m with you! I think it is fabulous and amazing that Angelina made the choice she did and decided to talk about it. And I think you are too. Women of all ages, famous and not, have to start to appreciate that we are not defined by our breasts or our butts or the colour of our hair. Our worth is in who and what we are. And thanks to you, women like you and mega celebrities like Angelina Jolie we are figuring that out.

  7. pattiapaul says:

    All right — lost my nipples – how did you girls get to keep yours? Although I’m glad you did. Jolie — so yesterday, bet her’s glow in the dark when squeezed. Do you think she has a designer brand or the same gummy bear inserts as the rest of us?

    • I got to keep mine because I had a very small tumor (1.4 cm) and it was located far from my nipple. They did a test while I was in surgery to determine if there was cancer near my nipple or not. When I woke up, one of the first things I asked was, “Do I have nipples?!?!”

      I said nipples so many times in this comment, it’s starting to look weird to me now. Nipples. Nipples. Nipples.

  8. lisacng says:

    Thank you for sharing such an honest account of your mastectomy because you’re right, Angie did kinda gloss over that part.

  9. Agreed;) very well stated! I have my surgery in August and very nervous, but not about feeling less of a women or anything, I’m dead set and ok with my choice but for the PAIN.. Oh I can’t imagine. Hve you had your exchange yet?

    • Haven’t had my exchange yet! I’ll have to wait until Christmas, most likely, since I’m starting my new job in June. Don’t fret about the surgery. You will do just fine! The pain is only temporary, and the drugs they give you for it are awesome.

  10. Barbara says:

    What do you mean by “exchange”?

    • There are two surgeries in reconstruction – the mastectomy, when temporary implants/tissue expanders are placed, and then the “exchange surgery,” when the temporary implants are swapped out for the real ones.

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