Angelina Jolie revealed in a deeply touching opinion piece in the New York Times that she’s had surgery to remove her fallopian tubes and ovaries – a way to further guard herself from the ovarian cancer that runs in the actress’s family. The candid piece, published Monday (March 23) and titled Angelina Jolie Pitt: Diary of a Surgery, outlines the thought process behind the Oscar winner’s decision and is a follow-up to the piece she wrote two years ago sharing the news of her preventative double mastectomy.
The 39-year-old had been planning the preventative surgery, but a call from the doctor prompted an emergency visit to the surgeon – the same one who had treated her mother.
“I went through what I imagine thousands of other women have felt. I told myself to stay calm, to be strong, and that I had no reason to think I wouldn’t live to see my children grow up and to meet my grandchildren,” she writes.
“I called my husband in France, who was on a plane within hours. The beautiful thing about such moments in life is that there is so much clarity. You know what you live for and what matters. It is polarizing, and it is peaceful.
“That same day I went to see the surgeon, who had treated my mother. I last saw her the day my mother passed away, and she teared up when she saw me: ‘You look just like her.’ I broke down. But we smiled at each other and agreed we were there to deal with any problem, so ‘let’s get on with it’.”
The Maleficent star had the procedure, called “a laparoscopic bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy”, last week. While there was a small benign tumour on one ovary, there were no signs of cancer.
With her ovaries and fallopian tubes now gone, the mother-of-six has entered early menopause and will not be able to have any more children. “Regardless of the hormone replacements I’m taking, I am now in menopause,” she writes. “I will not be able to have any more children, and I expect some physical changes. But I feel at ease with whatever will come, not because I am strong but because this is a part of life. It is nothing to be feared.”
The UN envoy made it clear that her decision to have her ovaries removed was not solely based on the BRCA1 gene mutation she carries, adding that there are other, non-surgical options out there for women, such as birth control pills, alternative treatments and frequent checks-up. However, taking into account her family’s history – Angelina’s mother, grandmother and aunt died to cancer – she said undergoing the operation was the best option for her.