Lindsay Avner on what Angelina Jolie’s courageous admission means for women
By LINDSAY AVNER May 15, 2013 4:54PM
Updated: May 16, 2013 7:34AM
I started Bright Pink on Jan. 2, 2007, and every day since, I’ve dedicated my professional career and personal passion to educating and equipping women around the country with the knowledge and support to be proactive with their breast and ovarian health. Creating urgency around prevention is a challenge — one that I proudly face head-on, but a challenge nonetheless. Most days, it feels like an uphill battle. Tuesday, it felt like a landslide.
I woke up early Tuesday morning to my phone buzzing from incoming emails and text messages. Angelina Jolie, arguably one of the world’s most famous celebrities, had chosen to go public with her personal account of genetic testing and preventive surgery — a story that mirrored my own in more ways than one. Like Angelina, I tested positive for the BRCA1 gene mutation almost eight years ago, indicating that I had up to an 87 percent lifetime risk of breast cancer and up to a 54 percent lifetime risk of ovarian cancer. Several months after learning of this gene fault, I opted for the same procedure as Angelina. At the time, I was 23, and the youngest woman in the country to undergo a risk-reducing double mastectomy.
It was during my journey of risk assessment and subsequent surgery that I recognized the lack of resources and tools for young women like Angelina and myself — women who didn’t have cancer, but wanted to examine their family history and develop a plan for the future. My passion to save lives and prevent women from succumbing to breast and ovarian cancer runs as deep in my DNA as the genetic mutation that was the impetus to it all. In all my life, I have never seen the Bright Pink movement more poised for strength and growth as it is now, as a result of Angelina’s announcement.
Angelina has courageously chosen to use her platform as a public figure to spark a conversation around preventive women’s health and to better the lives of others. Similarly, at Bright Pink, our hope is for a brighter future — one in which every young woman understands her personal risk for breast and ovarian cancer and takes life-saving action to reduce that risk so that she never succumbs to these diseases.
Angelina’s admission was a gigantic step in the right direction, but now we need to take the conversation and curiosity that’s been sparked by her story and empower women to take action. We must push even harder to equip young women with the knowledge and support to understand what questions to ask their families, how to assess their personal risks and how to partner with a medical professional to build a personalized risk-reduction and early detection plan. As Angelina said in her article, “Life comes with many challenges. The ones that should not scare us are the ones we can take on and take control of.”
You, like Angelina, can take control. And we at Bright Pink can help. While the test and actions Angelina took are not for everyone, you can start to assess what preventive actions are right for you by taking Bright Pink’s Assess Your Risk quiz at Brightpink.org. Be sure to share your commitment to being proactive, as Angelina has, and inspire others to do the same. Now is the time to brighten up — for ourselves, for the women we love and for the generations to come.