We encourage second opinions about treatment, but most people don't realize that when they ask for a second opinion on the diagnosis, the opinion should be based on examination of the actual biopsy slides, not simply the original pathology report.
Shortly after my double mastectomy 12 years ago, my oncologist asked me how I felt about losing my breasts. I told him I was sad and afraid I would feel this way forever. "How you feel will keep evolving," he said.
When I look back, I remember vividly the isolation I felt before my prophylactic mastectomy and again, feeling in the extreme minority as I was considering my extraction. I don't want other women to feel alone just because society only shows us one view of the world.
Ms. Jolie's reasoning behind going through this process is the integrity of her family. Her mother's loss to cancer was deeply felt and she wishes to avoid this trauma for her own children. Her reasons were her own, and yours will be your own. But at least there is a plan.
Women with breast cancer should be helped to clearly understand what can and cannot be achieved by prophylactic bilateral mastectomy and the potentially significant risks of the procedure. Doctors, in turn, should accept that a reduction in fear is a worthwhile goal in cancer treatment.
I decided that I would undergo a bilateral mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. I remember the frustration I felt at not having the mastectomy sooner. I wanted to fast track the whole thing. I wanted those things off yesterday.
Why am I telling this story for what feels like the 100th time? Because I think it is important to recognize that I am just like you. I am not a hero. I am not particularly brave. If I could get through what I got through, then anyone can get through anything.