It’s a bit after 7:30am est, so by now many people have seen Angelina Jolie’s piece in the New York Times relaying her story of her preventative mastectomy. In the hours since it’s been posted, there are already 125 comments supporting Jolie’s bravery in making the decision to prophylactically remover her breasts, as well as her bravery in telling the story to an international public.
I have a bone to pick with Jolie, however — first let me say that these are solely my opinions and I am not speaking for FORCE in what I am about to say.
While I too applaud Jolie for her bravery, and as a BRCA mutant I’m appreciative that she’s brought some attention to our cause, she could have done more. Her big miss – the opportunity to raise awareness for our flagship resource, FORCE. While her story might be enough to educate many people about the issue, her best gift would have been to lead them to FORCE.
Jolie thanks her partner, Brad Pitt, for supporting her through the her surgeries. But, I’m willing to bet that she had support beyond Pitt. I find it difficult to believe that in her journey to pursue genetic testing and prophylactic surgery, she did not once encounter the FORCE website. It is nearly impossible to do any research on BRCA and not encounter materials or documentation from FORCE. I find it unlikely that a genetic counselor did not mention FORCE to her as a place to find support. We don’t all have Brad Pitt to support us – but we do all have FORCE!
Many people donate money to the American Cancer Society or Susan Komen, and while these organizations do help all of us who have had cancer diagnoses, FORCE is the only organization that provides resources to people with HBOC genetic mutations in order to help them make choices about what to do with that information. They are the main source of support for “previvors” – those who know that cancer is around the corner and struggle with how to deal with that reality. FORCE supports women who have had major surgeries prophylactically – choosing these surgeries (rather than being forced to through a cancer diagnosis) is a hugely emotional decision, and the aftermath requires a particular sensitivity that only FORCE provides through its message boards, blogs, conference, and other resources.
And FORCE needs financial support. Recently, they’ve asked all of us who subscribe to their newsletters and emails to create Heroes pages – places where we can tell our stories and ask for financial support from our friends and families. This is my cousin’s heroes page; this is my friend’s heroes page; this is mine. If Jolie’s story made you feel moved to do something, even though she didn’t ask you to – I’m asking you to. Support FORCE.
I hope I’m wrong; I hope that Jolie has already written a big fat check to FORCE to thank them for helping her and others. But that needs to be made public too, so that people who want to support Jolie know how to do it.
It is important that we tell our stories. I’m not just referring to BRCA mutants – it’s important for anyone to tell his/her story. But it’s more important that your story call people to action. Your story must do more than simply raise awareness – it must cause us to act, to support the cause you’ve brought our attention to.