Angelina Jolie’s decision to have a double preventative mastectomy rather than risk an 86 per cent chance of breast cancer proves that not everything in Hollywood is banality, artifice and fluff.
In taking such a step, and in being prepared to write about it openly in the New York Times, 37-year-old Jolie has taken a mighty step forward as a celebrity with a cause.
As a carrier of the “faulty” gene BRCA1 Jolie faced a heightened risk of developing both breast and ovarian cancer.
Having lost her mother at the age of 56 to the same disease she vowed not to leave her children facing the same emotional void.
So many stars have peddled their personal and private agendas.
Richard Gere used the Oscars to denounce Chinese human rights violations in Tibet.
George Clooney was arrested outside the Sudanese Embassy in Washington during a protest about the plight of Darfur.
Breast cancer is different. It’s not a far-off place that people might not have heard of. It’s not political. It’s real, it affects us all and it’s on our doorstep.
Jolie has long used her celebrity status as a method of securing column inches for her personal causes.
Now she goes further, proving that physical good looks – her breasts have been a feature of several films and TV shows and have been a sales tool for studios eager to exploit her femininity and sexuality – come a very poor second to good health.
In her article for the New York Times she wrote: “I wanted to write this to tell other women that the decision to have a mastectomy was not easy.
“But it is one that I am very happy that I made.
“My chances of developing breast cancer have dropped from 87 per cent to under five per cent.
“I can tell my children that they don’t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer.”
Who can argue? A woman’s body is a sacred thing. But health and long life mean much more than any scar, whether physical or psychological.
Jolie weighed up the odds and came to perhaps the only conclusion possible: surgery. I say good for her.
Women are stronger than men. Smarter, too. And when it comes to raw courage they have us licked.
For the sake of her kids, her husband and her family Angelina Jolie made the biggest decision of her life. She did it for her life. For the life she has with her children and spouse. For her family. For her friends. For herself.
And she did it for us. For women everywhere. For her fans.
All the fame, all the money, all the acclaim, approbation and awards mean very little if death lurks in the shadows.
Angelina Jolie has shown that it is possible to win, and to win on her own terms. Calling her brave doesn’t even come close.