The 37-year-old Hollywood star Angelina Jolie has had a double mastectomy to reduce her chances of getting breast cancer and says she hopes her story will inspire other women fighting the life-threatening disease.
She decided to undergo this surgery because she carries a faulty BRCA1 gene that means she is much more likely to suffer from breast or ovarian cancer, she wrote in the New York Times.
The Oscar-winning actress, whose mother Marcheline Bertrand died of ovarian cancer in 2007 at the age of 56, said she had taken the difficult decision so she could tell her children “they don’t need to fear they will lose me”.
Her decision actually turned out to be a surprise not only for her fellow colleagues, but to some of her family members as well.
Her father Jon Voight learned about his daughter’s brave act on the internet, together with the rest of the world.
The actor, who reunited with Jolie in 2011 after 10 years of silence and feud, raised his “extraordinary” daughter but was understandably surprised – especially as he had seen Angelina just one day before her announcement in the New York Times.
“My love and admiration for my daughter can’t be explained in words,” the actor told the New York Daily News.
“I saw her two days ago with my son Jamie. We all got together for his birthday, with her and Brad [Pitt]. But I didn’t know. It wasn’t obvious at all.
“I found out [Tuesday] morning. I was as surprised as anyone and deeply moved by the way she’s handled this. She’s a very extraordinary person, the way she examined it and what she shared.”
The father-daughter duo had a falling out in 2001 after Jolie accused Voight of cheating on her mom and he spoke publicly about wanting to get her “help,” but they later mended their rift.
The Salt star continued working throughout three months of procedures and kept them a secret from everyone other than her fiance Brad, who was seen leaving a Hollywood studio on Tuesday, and their six children.
In her post shewrote that Brad Pitt, her partner of eight years, was at the Pink Lotus Breast Center in Southern California for “every minute of the surgeries.”
But Jon, 74, says he “absolutely” respects Angelina’s choice to keep her decision from him for that time.
“I completely understand,” he explained. “I want the focus to be on the inspiration.”
The BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes work in the body to keep DNA stable and to make sure cells don’t grow out of control, according to the National Cancer Institute. But certain mutations of these genes can dramatically raise cancer risk.
It is estimated that one in 300 to one in 500 women carry a BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 gene mutation, as Jolie does.
Actors, filmmakers and other members of the Hollywood community spoke out on Twitter after hearing the news, many praising Jolie for her bravery.
Sheryl Crow wrote: “I commend Angelina Jolie for her courage and thoughtfulness in sharing her story today regarding her mastectomy. So brave!”
Brad Pitt today hailed his fiancée Angelina Jolie as “heroic”.
Pitt said: “Having witnessed this decision firsthand, I find Angie’s choice, as well as so many others like her, absolutely heroic. I thank our medical team for their care and focus.
“All I want for is for her to have a long and healthy life, with myself and our children. This is a happy day for our family.”