Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Strength and Sadness

I saw a story on Good Morning America the other morning that I found so touching and so inspiring. In case you missed it, actress Christina Applegate was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. She had a lumpectomy, and because the cancer was in its earliest stages and was completely removed through surgery, the doctors told her she didn't need to follow up with chemo or radiation. Since her mom was also a breast cancer survivor though, she decided to be tested for the breast cancer gene after her surgery, and unfortunately she found out she was positive for the mutant gene. She opted to have a bilateral mastectomy as a preventative measure, before there were any other signs of cancer in her body.

When I first heard about people having this drastic, painful and emotionally and physically scarring surgery before they even had cancer, I thought it was a bit extreme. Then I read that 85% of women who have the breast cancer gene will develop the disease at some time in their lives, compared to 10-15% of the rest of the population. I've also read that having a preventative bilateral mastectomy can reduce a gene positive woman's chances of getting breast cancer by like 90%. Ninety percent. That seems like a no brainer, and I'd like to think that if I were faced with the decision to exchange my breasts for a good chance of a cancer free life, I would make the choice to have a mastectomy. I'd like to think that I would be so brave, and yet it would be such a horrible decision I can't even imagine.

Not only did Christina Applegate have the courage to undergo this disfiguring, drastic and painful surgery, she also had the courage to go on national television and talk about it. If you didn't get the chance to see the interview with Christina, you can check it out here. I found her honesty and bravery truly inspiring.


amber said...

I missed her interview yesterday, but I guess there was such an overwhelming response to the story that they did a follow-up today. They featured another woman who had made that very drastic and difficult choice and then had reconstructive surgery. I agree that it was a very powerful story. And Christina Applegate looked so beautiful!

James said...

We just heard about this yesterday and found it so sad to hear. I just watched the interview and am amazed by how composed, straight forward, and positive she is about the situation. I'm also impressed that she can joke about it and cope with laughter. Good for her to be public about this and share her experience. That can't be easy to do.

Beth said...

To me, that decision would be difficult to make, but in the end, I believe she made the right decision for her. It seems like in the end having the preventive surgery would be easier than letting cancer invade your body...?