In New York Times over two years ago, Angelina Jolie wrote an essay about her double mastectomy, a procedure that removed her breasts to reduce her risk of cancer.
At the age of 56, her own mother, Marcheline, passed away from ovarian cancer after being diagnosed with the disease seven years earlier.
Finding out that she has inherited the BRCA1 gene from her, the actress recognized that she was at an exceptionally high 87% risk of developing breast and a 50% risk of getting ovarian cancer.
And taking courageous steps for the sake of her own health, over the last couple of years, the actress not only had a double mastectomy (the removal of her breasts), but also of her ovaries in attempts to give her a better chance of survival.
And now, in a rare joint interview, Angelina and her husband Brad Pitt have spoken out once again about how they coped with her medical ordeal. Appearing on the Today Show, the power couple spoke with Tom Brokaw about By the Sea, their upcoming film which heavily focuses on the subject of bereavement and the disintegration of a marriage. Watch the trailer below:
"It's the scariest news"
Following a brief discussion about their new movie, the topic turned to how the couple dealt with Angelina's multiple surgeries. In particular, how while filming By the Sea, a doctor reportedly called her with crippling news that more cancerous DNA had been found.
Brad recalls the moment that he heard about the heartbreaking diagnosis from his wife:
“I was out in France, and Angie called me and I got straight on a plane to return. Seeing my wife have to be her strongest and knowing that it’s the scariest news is terribly moving. And not being there is a horrible feeling.”
"We both had a big cry"
Although thankfully Angelina didn't end up having a tumor, she decided to have her ovaries and her fallopian tubes removed as a preventative measure. During which difficult time, the actress's mother was always in her thoughts -- she explains why:
“We had some of the same nurses, some of the same doctors. So, the doctor that did my ovary surgery was my mother’s doctor. And apparently my mother had said to her, ‘Promise me you will take Angie’s ovaries out.’ So when we kind of got together, we both had a big cry, and she said, ‘I promised your mother, and I gotta do this.”’
It was then, two weeks after following her beloved mother's dying wishes, that Angelina wrote the New York Times essay, explaining her decision for preventative surgery. Since then, she has been fervently encouraging women in a similar predicament to be aware of their options.
"You feel different"
In particular, the brave actress spoke candidly about how her body changed and how the surgery put her body into early on-set menopause. Elaborating on what she said in her essay, Angelina added:
"Every woman is different when they go through menopause, and…I didn’t know emotionally how I would feel. I knew the breast would be a bigger surgery and physically changing. The ovaries is more, your hormones changing and your emotions changing, but it’s different. You feel different.”
The interview then switched back to Brad and focused on the humble ways in which he dealt with the critical situation. The actor spoke of the support network that he prioritized for his wife, and the measures he put in place to maintain normality for their six children.
"She was doing it so we could be together"
Yet, through it all, the thing he appreciated the most about his wife has been her relentless strength:
“There was no vanity to my wife’s approach. It was mature. ‘This is our life and we’re gonna make the best of it.’ There was a strength in that. It was just another one of those things in life that makes you tighter, and she was doing it for the kids, and she was doing it for her family so we could be together.”
"I [wasn't] going to feel less of a woman because my husband wasn't going to let that happen"
Chiming in, Angelina spoke about what the support of her husband meant to her. With a teary glint her eye, she said:
"I think for as much as he speaks about my strength, I knew that he made it very, very clear to me that what he loved, or what was a woman to him, was somebody who was smart and capable and cared about her family. That it wasn't about the physical body. I knew through the surgeries that he was on my side and this wasn't something in which I was going to feel less of a woman because my husband wasn't going to let that happen."
Looking to the future, now Angelina focuses on spreading cancer awareness amongst women. She acknowledges that many of us will have cancer and that we will all die and because of this, it's important to speak about the issues that make us human.
Watch the touching interview in full below:
Watching this interview, I have been incredibly moved by the strength and sincerity with which Angelina speaks. Both her and Brad have been through a phenomenal amount, and the fact that in going through this emotional and physical trauma they have chosen to speak out to help others, is testament to their wonderful human nature and strong marriage.
Their love story is perhaps the greatest Hollywood has ever seen and we wish them all the health and happiness for the future!