Women in Nova Scotia who have had preventative double mastectomies are praising Angelina Jolie for sharing her experiences and encouraging other women to learn about their options.
The Hollywood star stunned the world when she wrote about her choice to have a preventative double mastectomy, meaning she chose to have both her breasts removed even though she had not been diagnosed with cancer, in an op-ed piece in the New York Times on Tuesday.
"It is my hope that they, too, will be able to get gene tested, and that if they have a high risk they, too, will know that they have strong options," Jolie wrote, revealing she is a carrier of a "faulty" BRCA1 gene.
Cora MacLean, a 34-year-old mother, had a double mastectomy in Nova Scotia last November.
She didn't have breast cancer, but several people in her family did.
"There's a great possibility that we have, or that I, carry the gene and so it was just a no-brainer for me. It's a very personal and major decision but for me it was just something I had to do."
MacLean decided to make her personal decision public and recorded a number of YouTube videos about her decision and recovery.
Results from genetic testing can take two years.
That's how long Dawn Rudolph waited. She had cancer in one breast and had it removed in 2005. Even when the test results came back negative, she decided to have the second breast removed three years later.
"I didn't want it to be in the back of my mind because it was. So for me it was a healthy option," she said.
Fighting the feminine stigma
Angelina Jolie wrote that she decided to have her surgery because of a rare genetic mutation. Jolie's doctors said the gene makes her 87 per cent more likely to develop breast cancer.
Barb Thompson, executive director at Breast Cancer Action Nova Scotia, says Jolie’s decision to go public will help women everywhere.
"You know here she is this Hollywood figure, this beautiful person and she's done it and she doesn't feel any less feminine and that's really important for women to know that, that if they go through that, you know there is life after that," she said.
For MacLean, there are no regrets.
"I'm so happy with it," she said.
"When it comes to the fear aspect, educate yourself. That's the biggest thing you can do is educate yourself and make yourself ready and aware."
MacLean said she will show her daughter the videos when she's older to help explain how her mother reached the decision.