Dear Ms. Jolie:
Where do I even begin? I’m not quite sure, but there’s definitely one thing I want to make sure I don’t forget to tell you: THANK YOU. And yes, I meant to put that in caps on purpose. Because there’s really no better way to say it, and because, frankly, a thank you deserves to be said that way. When you think about it, just saying thank you pales in comparison to what you’ve done recently.
As I read your recent op-ed piece in The New York Times, I found myself almost cheering you on with each sentence. I kept thinking to myself, “Yes, right on, Angelina. You’ve got it.” You’ve captured what so many women are thinking and feeling, but you also gave a much-needed voice to the constant fear that comes with motherhood: Not being there for your children and not being able to watch them grow up. Your decision to have a preventative double mastectomy tugged at my heartstrings, as I’m sure it did with thousands of other women (and men).
“It is reassuring that they see nothing that makes them uncomfortable,” you wrote. “They can see my small scars and that’s it. Everything else is just Mommy, the same as she always was. And they know that I love them and will do anything to be with them as long as I can. On a personal note, 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.“
I can only imagine what it must be like as a mother to know that there’s a high probability your children will lose their mother much too soon. But as the child of someone who got cancer, I can tell you that someday, your children are going to come to you and say, “Thank you, Mom. Thank you for doing everything in your power to be here for us. Thank you for everything.” Your decision made me think about my own father and our family’s struggles when he was diagnosed with sinus cancer. The odds weren’t good. The chances of the cancer coming back even after chemo and radiation were more than 70 percent. Even now, 10 years after his suicide (which I’m 100 percent sure wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t gotten cancer…), I wonder what our lives would be like if he were still here with us today. Would we be living a different life? What would my father be doing? Would he be proud of me? Thanks to you, your children will never be forced to wrestle with those sorts of questions.
So thank you, Ms. Jolie — thank you more than you’ll ever know. Like you said, you could have chosen to keep your experience private. Of course we all would have respected that. But instead, you chose to share your journey in the most beautiful way possible. You took control of your life. How selfless. How heroic. Thank you for taking a stand against cancer for women, mothers and children everywhere.