Thursday, May 16, 2013

Why I Won't Be Lopping off My Healthy Breasts

Recently, actress Angelina Jolie wrote an op-ed piece for the New Yoga Times about undergoing a preventative double mastectomy. You can read it HERE. She lays out her reasons with such painful openness and details her own statistics battle; it is a great piece to read. Honestly, I didn't look at the author's name until I read the entire piece (I was thinking how funny that this woman has a husband named Brad Pitt, and how confusing that might be in everyday situations). When I realized who wrote it, I read it again with the perspective that this woman's career is based on outward image, which makes her actions even more profound.

I was moved by her situation. I recognized the fear and the strong desire to do everything and anything to keep her family intact and away from the pain of losing someone to cancer. And, I really and truly hope it does. But...

Genetics are not the only player in the cancer game.

The medical party line is that cancer is a disease of the genes. I don't buy this entirely. Certain races report less death by cancer instances than others, but once they immigrate to the US, their cancer incidences rise.

The holistic party line is that cancer is a disease of the environment. I don't buy this entirely, either. People who live "clean" lives by removing toxins from their clothing, skin, food, water, thoughts, breath, spirit, work and play can still develop cancer.

I believe it's both genes and environment. 

Some of us are more predisposed to genetic mutations than others, and this can be tested, so people will flock to the tests with religious fervor. But just because you test positive for a genetic mutation, does not mean you will die from cancer. The environment has to be ideal for the cancer cells to continue to mutate to a point of danger. That is where environmental factors play a part, and the hard choices that we need to make every day in order to reduce our risks. These lifelong choices can be equally as difficult as deciding to remove a healthy part of our bodies.

Has Angelina Jolie avoided a cancer diagnosis? Maybe. Does it mean that she can now riddle herself with toxins? Definitely not! She still must watch all that she eats, drinks, breathes, washes with, paints on herself, wears, thinks, prays and participates in. I'm sure she already does all of these things. I'm sure that her preventative mastectomy was yet another in a long list of hard choices that she has made in order to beat the odds.

I would say the same to anyone else faced with this choice:

there are no guarantees, so do everything that you can, but please, do not be rash about losing a healthy body part.