Sibongile Mafu

Angelina Jolie Lara Crofts cancer

2013-05-15 09:55

Sibongile Mafu

Cancer has touched everyone. It's one of those illnesses that you are just unable to be ignorant about because frankly, a family member, a friend, a neighbour has had it, is fighting it, or has died from it.

On Tuesday when it was revealed that Hollywood actress and mom of many Angelina Jolie had a preventative double mastectomy to lower the risk of breast cancer, there were very few people who weren't moved. In an article she put together for the New York Times, My Medical Choice, Jolie says writes, "my doctors estimated that I have an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer". This was because of the "faulty" gene, BRCA1, she carries, which sharply increases her risk of developing both breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

Angelina Jolie is not the first and certainly not the last woman to make a decision like this, but it can be said she is one of the most high-profile to so. Author Judy Blume, popular for books such as Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, blogged about her mastectomy last year after being diagnosed with breast cancer and entertainment journalist Giuliana Rancic documented her similar journey in her E! reality show Giuliana and Bill.

The fight against cancer has always been the battle that has never been short of crusaders. There is always someone willing and generous enough to talk about their experiences, young and old, and the incredible fundraising efforts around it, never go unnoticed.

But something different happened with the Angelina case. Here is a woman who many regard as one of the most beautiful women in the world, philanthropist and sex symbol, taking an incredibly anti-Hollywood step and also writing about it. A mastectomy is hard enough; a preventative mastectomy in Hollywood is quite something. We know about the rusty glitz and vanity of the world she plies her trade and the seemingly endless pursuit of perfect beauty.

Angelina is a woman who has been on top of her game for many years. She is there, making sure her body is in shape two days after giving birth, making sure not a single hair is out of place on the red carpet, making sure the leg sticks out at the perfect angle. She is also the indestructible Lara Croft, who made a superhero decision for her family.

In doing this I think she's has taken a stand on how trivial the entertainment world can be. But more importantly, she's made a stand to ensure her children's mother lives to see them grow up and get married and have their own children, something which her own mother, who died of cancer at 56, didn't have the chance to do. She's made a statement around the fragility of life, and how we've placed an incredible amount of significance on what doesn't matter.

My own grandmother and aunt lost their battles with breast cancer. It was both a horrifying and peaceful time. We all knew what was going to happen. There was a strength we drew from being both helpless and prepared. But there is something that triggers inside you when you lose someone close to you in this way. A determination to do what you can to prevent it from happening to you and also happening to those you love. There's strength in loss and vulnerability. I now do regular breast self-examinations and make sure I read as much about cancer as possible. But I also give myself the space to live.

That is what I've taken from Angelina's choice. She's given herself the space to live.

- Sibongile is a videographer, blogger and social media enthusiast who would be nothing without her thumbs. Follow her on Twitter: @SboshMafu.

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