Awareness

Nanay's 74th Birthday Celebration, Aristocrat

I know I have yet to post what we did on Mother’s Day, but a relevant news involving Angelina Jolie reminded me of my grandmother’s before-death battle.

My mother’s parents had been living in the US with her eldest sister for a long time when they decided to finally come home to the Philippines in October 2006. The news came as shock to everyone especially when they seem to have made up their mind before breaking it out to their children. A month or two later, we were surprised to know that my grandmother had checked herself in at St. Luke’s Medical Center to undergo a major operation: a mastectomy, removing her right breast.

Another month later, my grandmother was brought to the hospital due to complications from her operation. It turned out, she had breast cancer, and that the cancer cells have metastasized throughout her body. Everything happened so fast that no one really realized that my grandmother suffered a mild stroke in her sleep, thus resulting to slurred speech. It was devastating most especially to my mother, who was the immediate family member to attend to her needs (apart from my grandfather). My grandmother was in and out of the hospital until all seven children decided to take her home.

With the assistance of my mother’s brother, they turned my grandparents’ living room into a bedroom, fully accessible to other parts of the house (i.e., bathroom, kitchen, dining area). My grandmother was obese, so they had to take her bed down in replacement of the living room couch. Though very costly, the children decided to employ two caregivers to attend to her needs.

My grandmother’s battle with breast cancer lasted for about nine months despite her doctors’ initial assumption of only three to four months. It was heartbreaking to see my grandmother suffer with her illness. There were days when she would wail for hours, perhaps because of unbearable pain. She was restless, hardly even had a decent sleep. Likewise, it was difficult to see Mom endure the pain of seeing what her own mother’s going through. My mother was there every minute of every day.

I relive this memory as I read through Angelina Jolie’s decision to undergo a preventive double mastectomy earlier this week. According to news, her decision was influenced by the cause of her mother’s death in 2007. Marcheline Bertrand died of ovarian cancer at the age of 56, and after learning that Angelina carries a mutation of the BRCA1 gene, which sharply increases her risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer, she made a decision for herself and her family.Angelina claimed that her chances of developing breast cancer have dropped from 87% to under 5%.

Not so long ago, Giuliana Rancic, a host (E! News/Fashion Police), a reality TV star (Giuliana & Bill), and a breast cancer survivor, also underwent a double mastectomy in 2011. Giuliana and her husband, Bill, had been trying to conceive a baby when she learned that she had breast cancer. I watched a few episodes of Giuliana & Bill at the time, and I could tell that it had been a very difficult situation for them and their families.

These two ladies have used their public figures as a platform to bring awareness to women, especially those who may be walking in the same shoes as theirs. I personally liked the following parting words from Angelina Jolie herself:

“For any woman reading this, I hope it helps you to know you have options,” Jolie wrote. “I want to encourage every woman, especially if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, to seek out the information and medical experts who can help you through this aspect of your life, and to make your own informed choices.”

But for Jolie, the decision ultimately came down to her kids.

“I can tell my children that they don’t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer,” she said.

This news may have rattled everyone else who has heard about it, but I truly admire her courage to do something that could greatly affect her and her family in various ways. You are phenomenal, Angelina Jolie. You truly are beautiful inside and out. God bless you and your family, Angie. May you continue to inspire people through your peacefulness as well as your battles.

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