Angelina Jolie's revelation that she's had a double mastectomy is being widely praised today as courageous and admirable.
In an op-ed piece in today's New York Times, Jolie says she underwent the procedure to reduce her chances of getting breast cancer.
Jolie, 37, says she made the decision thinking of her six children, after she found out she carried a gene that made it highly likely she would get the disease.
In the piece, entitled 'My Medical Choice', Jolie writes "My mother fought cancer for almost a decade and died at 56."
"She held out long enough to meet the first of her grandchildren and to hold them in her arms. But my other children will never have the chance to know her and experience how loving and gracious she was."
She adds that her children "have asked if the same could happen to me."
Jolie says genetic tests revealed she carries the "faulty" BRCA1 gene and her doctors estimated she had an 87 per cent risk of breast cancer and a 50% risk of ovarian cancer.
"I decided to be proactive and to minimise the risk as much I could," she writes.
Between February and late April, Jolie underwent nine weeks of complex surgery to remove her breasts, and replace them with implants.
"There have been many advances in this procedure in the last few years, and the results can be beautiful," she writes.
She says her chances of developing breast cancer have now dropped from 87% to under 5%, adding that the decision to have a mastectomy wasn't easy but she's happy she did.
"I can tell my children that they don't need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer," she writes.
"It is reassuring that they see nothing that makes them uncomfortable. 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."
Jolie also writes, "I choose not to keep my story private because there are many women who do not know that they might be living under the shadow of cancer."
"For any woman reading this, I hope it helps you to know you have options."
"I want to encourage every woman, especially if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, to seek out the information and medical experts who can help you through this aspect of your life, and to make your own informed choices."
Jolie is candid about her surgeries as well, describing it all step-by-step - from the "nipple delay" to maximize the chances of saving her nipples, to the removal of her breasts, and nine weeks later, reconstruction.
She also praised her partner, Brad Pitt, for his love and support and being with her "every minute of the surgeries."
Here's some of the online reaction to Jolie's story.
I commend Angelina Jolie for her courage and thoughtfulness in sharing her story today regarding her mastectomy. So brave!— Sheryl Crow (@SherylCrow) May 14, 2013
My Medical Choice nyti.ms/10U9HwL - bravo Angelina for sharing ur truth !— Rosie O'Donnell (@Rosie) May 14, 2013
Much respect & for sharing in classy way: Angelina Jolie on why she had a double mastectomy & how it can save lives: nyti.ms/19l8bbZ— Elizabeth Banks (@ElizabethBanks) May 14, 2013
wow. Brave & Considerate move on Angelina Jolie's behalf n.pr/169wayt— Questlove Jenkins (@questlove) May 14, 2013
A double mastectomy isn't as simple as Angelina Jolie makes it sound tgam.ca/Dq91— The Globe and Mail (@globeandmail) May 14, 2013
A moment of quiet respect for Angelina Jolie's candor and all women's bravery in facing this choice: nyti.ms/17o4k1m— Nia Vardalos (@NiaVardalos) May 14, 2013
Most women probably shouldn't get the cancer screening Angelina Jolie did wapo.st/18ItbMp— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) May 14, 2013
An admirable op ed by Angelina Jolie: nytimes.com/2013/05/14/opi...— Kristen Bell(@IMKristenBell) May 14, 2013
Such a courageous story, from Angelina Jolie: nytimes.com/2013/05/14/opi...— rosanne cash (@rosannecash) May 14, 2013
I just heard about Angelina Jolie, she is so brave. My mom had breast cancer & I am going for my mammogram today. #BreastCancerAwareness— EachDayIsABlessing (@karlene_11) May 14, 2013
Bravery: nyti.ms/102siuZ— Ann Curry (@AnnCurry) May 14, 2013
A brave and bold essay by Angelina Jolie about an excruciating medical choice she had to make: nyti.ms/10U9HwL— Nicholas Kristof (@NickKristof) May 14, 2013
For all the praise and admiration, there are some people who point out Angelina Jolie's "reality" is different than many women.
Glad Angelina Jolie is rich enough to be proactive. A friend died of cancer last month, long-term unemployed American w/low pay & no benes.— Mary (@MFL1956) May 14, 2013
I admire Angelina Jolie and her choice, but this highlights the huge gap between rich and poor when it comes to health care decisions.— Susan J. Bancroft (@laxitmom) May 14, 2013
The only comment I have about Angelina Jolie is that, being incredibly rich, she could afford the reconstructive surgery.— Atanae (@Atanae) May 14, 2013
For us mere mortals, neither preventative surgery nor reconstructive surgery is covered under insurance. We don't have her options.— Atanae (@Atanae) May 14, 2013
There are also a series of reads worth checking out on Jolie's decision.
In the New Yorker, Rebecca Mead commends Jolie for "speaking of her celebrated body with words typically reserved for the doctor's office: ducts, tissue, bruising, pain. Jolie's medical decision says again what shouldn't need re-saying: that a woman's body is hers, that breasts are for something other than ogling, and that hard choices are made for strong reasons. Her decision to make her choice public is bold and brave and admirable. It is what celebrity is for."
In The Atlantic, Eleanor Barkhorn writes, "This is a big deal. Angelina Jolie is sexy. Her body parts--her legs, her breasts, her hair, even her blood--have been on display throughout her career, subject to discussion and speculation. That she can lose the part of her body most closely associated with female sexuality and still feel fully female is an astonishing statement. Yes, she's a celebrity and can afford the finest reconstructive surgery in the world, a level of care that's out of the reach of most people (a fact she acknowledges). Nevertheless, the message is clear: A woman is still sexy, even after she has her breasts removed and reconstructed. It's hard to imagine a person who can say that with more authority than Jolie."
The website good.is writes, "When a celebrity comes to the world with something like this, it should serve as a humbling moment to everyone that feeds into the celebrity gossip machine. Yes, celebrities can be "just like us." And when someone in the public eye does something as fearlessly as this--to share a personal decision so publicly--it can serve as a great inspiration."
CBC News has a Q&A about Jolie's double mastectomy, the procedures she had and why, the gene she carries, and other options. It also has a post entitled 'Women Share Stories Of Life After A Double Mastectomy'.
And NPR has a piece entitled 'Angelina Jolie and The Rise of Preventive Mastectomies'
At Forbes.com, David Kroll has a piece entitled 'A Cautionary Perspective on Angelina Jolie's Double Mastectomy'. He writes: "For all the bravery of Ms. Jolie and the positive groundswell that her op-ed generates, I also want to be sure that women with breast cancer - women who are already scared - do not feel the extra burden that they're not doing enough if they don't consider a double mastectomy."
BBC Radio has an interview with Wendy Watson, the first woman in the UK to have a preventative mastectomy 21 years ago. She told the Today programme that Jolie's revelation will be an inspiration to women, saying "I really applaud her for doing this, it's raising the profile that nobody like myself or anybody else could do. People will probably not be so scared, pick up the phone and be screened."