Angelina Jolie's Double Mastectomy: Looking at Choices

How to Make Infertility Choices   Looking at Angelina JolieAngelina Jolie had both of her breasts removed. She writes about her decision in a NY Times op-ed "My Medical Choice" published today.  She did not have breast cancer.

 

Yet.

 

The word yet serves two purposes; two definitions.

 

Yet, she is statistically predisposed towards it.

 

Yet, she wasn’t afflicted by cancer when she made the decision to have her breasts removed.

 

She could afford to make that decision.

 

Afford.

 

The word afford serves two purposes here; two definitions.

 

One, she could afford, bear, the financial resources to have the gene testing and surgery and follow up surgical procedures done.

 

Two, she could afford to have her breasts removed because they are organs with which we can live without.

 

Just like our ovaries, uteri and fallopian tubes.

 

We can live without them.

 

But we can’t conceive, become pregnant or carry a baby without them.

 

We can do those things without breasts. We cannot breast feed after mastectomies.

 

But we can conceive and carry a pregnancy to term without our breasts.

 

I believe that Angelina Jolie made the right decision for herself and her family. Everything I’ve read has been thoughtful and insightful. Not that it’s really any of my business to approve or not to approve.

 

This was a personal decision that she made. She chose to share it publically. Not everything that she is saying resonates with the public. She’s talking about her own personal experience. While I’ve not had breast cancer or a mastectomy, a very close loved one or two, or three, have. I’m glad that Angelina’s recovery, both physically and emotionally, was so gentle. She’s clear the whole process is not so gentle. It’s painful and challenging and debilitating. Some will argue that she downplayed the recuperation; I know what I bore witness to was not what she described. Again, this was recounting of her own personal experience. And maybe it’s even only what she’s decided to share. She may not want to share each detail. Her right. Her choice.

Personal Choices During Infertility

Infertility and fertility treatment is also personal choice. Personal choice based on disease. Unlike the statistics that the gene BRAC1 represents, infertility, disease of the reproductive organs, is present when it interferes with pregnancy.

 

We come back to definitions.

 

Infertility.

 

Infertility, a disease or malfunction causing reproductive organs not to operate properly.

 

Infertility, an inability to become pregnant after one year of correctly timed sexual intercourse.

 

Infertility, the inability to carry a healthy baby or pregnancy to term.

 

Infertility, whether able to be pinpointed and specifically diagnosed or not, causing a woman the inability to become pregnant or stay pregnant to deliver a live baby.

 

Angelina Jolie made a choice. While three thousand dollars for BRAC1 testing feels outrageous and expensive and creates an elitism situation in our country, it barely registers for me.

 

Why?

 

Sounds insensitive on my part. Unintelligent even. Distinctly un-feminist.

 

Yeah, it even feels that way to me.

 

So why? Why my lack of reaction to the three grand for the testing?

 

Medical Insurance Coverage for Infertility

 

Because I sit with men and women three times a week, every week, in Fertile Yoga, in Ladies Night In, I correspond with them through the blog, who have no medical insurance for reproductive disease, also known as infertility.

 

That’s why.

 

Because we’re talking about thousands of dollars. Sometimes tens of thousands of dollars. Sometimes over and over again.

 

No reimbursement. No insurance coverage.

 

I have enough moral fiber to expand and so I will make that choice right now.

 

It’s reprehensible that testing for BRAC1 is three thousand dollars, uncovered by medical insurance.

 

It’s as reprehensible that medical treatment to correct or compensate for infertility creates the financial burden that it does, unrelieved by medical insurance.

 

Because, I’m sorry, the take away message is that if you are poor or uninsured, or underinsured or your insurance specifically excluded infertility treatment, then you are not going to be treated for your medical condition of infertility.

 

Just as if your family history would indicate BRAC1 testing is necessary and you didn’t have the three thousand dollars.

 

I’m glad that Angelina Jolie spoke up about this. I’m glad that her chances of developing breast cancer have gone from 87%, all the way down to 5%.  I’m glad that she and her family came to a decision that they could afford to support.

 

Afford.

 

Definition.

 

They had the money to have the testing done.

 

We don’t all have that.

 

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Topics: cancer, fertility insurance, Financing Infertility Treatment

Lisa Rosenthal

Lisa has over thirty years of experience in the fertility field. After her personal infertility journey, she felt dissatisfied with the lack of comprehensive services available to support her. She was determined to help others undergoing fertility treatment. Lisa has been with RMACT for eleven years and serves as Patient Advocate and the Strategic Content Lead.

Lisa is the teacher and founder of Fertile Yoga, a program designed to support men and women on their quest for their families through gentle movement and meditation.

Lisa’s true passion is supporting patients getting into treatment, being able to stay in treatment and staying whole and complete throughout the process. Lisa is also a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist, which is helpful in her work with fertility patients.

Her experience also includes working with RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association and The American Fertility Association (now Path2Parenthood), where she was Educational Coordinator, Conference Director and Assistant Executive Director.

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