Angelina Jolie’s decision: Let’s show compassion for someone before we need it

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore 

Last year a friend of mine discovered she had cancer in one of her breasts.  (She’s doing fantastic today, picture of health).

She opted for a bilateral mastectomy, to remove both breasts. She’s the second woman I know in my immediate life who took this prophalactic, preventative approach.  My friend made this decision for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the probablity of her kind of cancer returning. I was awed by her courage and disgusted by the reaction she told me she received from one of her family members who wondered out loud of all places, why she decided to remove a perfectly healthy breast.

Would I make the same proactive decision? I don’t know, but it’s not my body we’re talking about.

So here’s the thing, when you live inside someone else’s body, mind and experience you’re welcome to walk inside and have at it, until then, let’s just assume you’re not entirely familiar with the landscape.

In light of Angelina Jolie’s recent double masectomy after she found she carried the genetic mutation that put her at an 85% risk of breast cancer (her mother died of breast cancer), the conversation about bilateral, prophalactic masectomy is whirling about in the opinion-sphere.

I cannot imagine the gall of anyone, friend, family or otherwise, telling a woman who is experiencing the shock, fear and worry of breast cancer now, and possibly in the future, that she shouldn’t do what she’s going to do.

Let’s invoke empathy and compassion before we need it ourselves, shall we?

I refer often to a phenomenon, (and not out of spite I assure you), something I call the “Nancy Reagan Syndrome” (NRS).  Mrs. Reagan with all due respect, supported stem cell research after her husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  My father who died of Parkinson’s and Lewy Body Syndrome would have apprecated the endorsement a bit sooner (which is not to say even if Mrs. Reagan had endorsed stem cell the technology would have been of use for my father, but blocking potential stem cell research was in my view, a wrenching roadblock to potential therapies).

That Mrs. Reagan came out in favor of stem cell research was courageous. And so without throwing salt in a wound, here’s a little Golden Rule nudge: Let’s consider what doors we’re shutting on someone that we might one day need opened ourselves.

Another example of NRS is Senator Rod Portman (R Ohio) who supported gay marriage after his son came out.  Again, tempting as it is to point out these changed views and scowl at the reversal, the bigger picture is — these folks saw the light.

So, let’s see the light before it shines so brightly in our face we suddenly gasp from the pain.

Originally posted on skirt!



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