Melissa Etheridge and “The Brave Choice”

3332738782_f82c977438There’s been a lot of discussion of “shaming” recently on the Ms. Blog: fat-shaming, slut-shaming, young-mother shaming.

Let’s add to that list cancer-shaming.

Last week, singer/songwriter Melissa Etheridge, in an interview with the Washington Blade, was asked how she felt—as a breast cancer survivor—about actor/director Angelina Jolie’s public announcement that she had undergone a prophylactic double mastectomy to lessen her risk for breast cancer. Here’s what Etheridge said:

I have to say I feel a little differently. I have that gene mutation too and it’s not something I would believe in for myself. I wouldn’t call it the brave choice. I actually think it’s the most fearful choice you can make when confronting anything with cancer. My belief is that cancer comes from inside you and so much of it has to do with the environment of your body. It’s the stress that will turn that gene on or not. Plenty of people have the gene mutation and everything but it never comes to cancer so I would say to anybody faced with that, that choice is way down the line on the spectrum of what you can do and to really consider the advancements we’ve made in things like nutrition and stress levels. I’ve been cancer free for nine years now, and looking back I completely understand why I got cancer. There was so much acidity in everything. I really encourage people to go a lot longer and further before coming to that conclusion.

Although she may not have consciously meant it this way, Etheridge’s remarks suggest that if you had or have the disease, you essentially brought it on yourself with poor nutrition, too much stress, too much acidity. She blames herself for her own cancer, and by implication suggests that cancer is the “fault” of those who have gotten it.

Isn’t cancer bad enough without being blamed or shamed for having gotten it?

When Etheridge was recovering from her treatment for breast cancer, many of us were moved by her energy and spirit. There she was on stage at the 2005 Grammy Awards, rocking a chemo-bald head as she belted out “Piece of My Heart.” As so many of those dealing with cancer do, she inspired. She wasn’t going to let the disease take away her music, and that made all of us think, perhaps, that we shouldn’t let life’s pains and roadblocks suck away everything we love. She was obviously a fighter and, metaphorically, she made us all want to be fighters as well.

We also have admired Etheridge for speaking out against people wearing animal fur, speaking up for LGBT rights and “rocking for choice” to support abortion rights.

But here she is in 2013 criticizing Angelina Jolie for having not made “the brave choice.”

The discovery that the BRCA mutation increases the risk of hereditary breast and ovarian cancers has given women a choice we previously didn’t have: to preemptively stave off certain cancers by removing our breasts and/or ovaries. That’s not an easy choice by any stretch of the imagination (many women probably don’t even want to take the BRCA test in the first place because, if they’re positive, the choice suddenly looms in their lives). But it isn’t our business to monitor other women’s choices, and decide who’s brave and who isn’t. Yet Etheridge judged Angelina Jolie fearful for deciding to have her breasts removed and then going through the discomforts of breast reconstruction. Would it have been braver for her to wait on pins and needles before every six-month cancer screening, knowing of her elevated risk for the diseases that killed her mother and her aunt?

When we talk about bravery, we should consider, too, how Jolie made this choice even in light of her public image as a highly sexualized actor. She decided to remove her breasts in a profession that celebrates breasts uber alles–how radical that is! Remember the film Valley of the Dolls? The character of sexy actor Jennifer North (Sharon Tate), commits suicide rather than having a mastectomy when diagnosed with breast cancer. Jolie, in comparison, has put herself forward as someone most concerned with preserving her health, and thus being around as long as possible to raise her six children, rather than maintaining a less-than-honest glamorous facade.

Melissa Etheridge’s comments only make one respect that much more Angelina Jolie’s openness about BRCA and prophylactic treatments for hereditary cancers. As for Etheridge—a brave hero herself—let’s hope she rethinks judging the courage of others and the choices that they make.

Photo of Melissa Etheridge by Flickr user Raphael Amado Deras under license from Creative Commons 2.0

Comments

  1. Rebecca Langford says:

    I think Melissa Etheridge was asked what she thought and she expressed her thoughts. Why in the world are her thoughts any less valid than yours? I believe bravery is not really what any woman thinks when she has choices like this. The big c is exactly how is sounds scarey. We fearfully face it and do what we think is our best possible outcome. I would put the word bravery and losing the fight in the same categories. People don’t lose their fight against cancer they die from it. People do not act bravely when diagnosed they try to stay alive.

  2. Why do celebrities get any media attention whatsoever when it comes to medical issues? I would be fine with her speaking about her experiences. However she crossed a line when saying, “It’s the stress that will turn that gene on or not.” & “I really encourage people to go a lot longer and further before coming to that conclusion.” Etheridge is NOT a physicain or researcher. To speak with certainty about what will make the gene work ‘turn on’ or to enourage people to delay treatment is effectivly practing medicine without a license. As a celebrity, her words have influence. For her to speak her unscientific opinion about what caused this is similar to Jenny McCarthy telling the world that vaccines caused her son’s autism. That has lead many people to ignore life-saving science at the cost of their/ children’s lives.

    I am glad that Ms. criticizes Etheridge’s statements. However, I feel the press is doing a disservice by giving people who cross the medical line airtime. This magazine has given pelanty of deserved criticism to Todd Akin for his comments on rape. I will never support Akin (I am embarassed to have his state be listed on my birth certificate) atleast he prefaced his ‘medical’ garbage with “from what I understand from doctors”. He added ambiguity to the statement instead of simply saying ‘pregnancy does not happen from rape’. What he said was idiotic and aweful, but he did not state X causes Y and that to me would be medicine without licensure.

    I know that I am saying quite a bit here. Should the press give airtime (I do not know the equivelent word for written space.) to anyone individual just because xe has an opinion? Would you print: Pat Doe states 2+3=4? I don’t think so. My suggestion would be to stop giving celebrities attention for thier harmful trash. Celebrity person wants to speak about their experience with cancer-great we will publish tomorrow. Celebrity person wants to state their opinion as a fact/ medical advice-No, this interview is over and will not be publised.

    They can have their opinon, but that doesn’t mean that it should be spread.

  3. I’m sorry but this is not shaming. If we have scientific knowledge that certain activities cause cancer and we engage in those activities anyway, we bear some of the responsibility. That’s not to say such people should be shamed–they should not ever be shamed.

    If Ethridge had pointed out that smokers who get lung cancer engaged in risky behavior, I don’t think anyone would accuse her of shaming smokers.

    We need to learn as much as possible about what causes cancer and encourage people to choose healthy lifestyles. If they make unhealthy choices, we should not shame or blame them but it is important for them to understand that they may be responsible so that they can change their habits and so they don’t relapse.

    • I’m sorry, but what “risky behavior” was angelenia jolie engaging in exactly. Your analogy simply does not work here. And women’s shaming of other women’s choices is always unfortunate.

    • Pilar Greenwood says:

      OGalaxy and Melissa Etheridge are right. Stresses also come from the outside. People who are abused or suffer extreme emotional upsets, children who are neglected and mistreated, among other circumstances, run higher risks of ill health, including cancer.

  4. Deborah Hooker says:

    I’m sorry – your assessment is VERY NARROW. It seems that Etheridge is simply acknowledging that cancer is not a one-dimensional disease. It encompasses, environment, genetics, food sources, etc. She was asked whether she would have made the same decision as Jolie and said no. She gave you her reasons, which are not whacko. Given the poor food culture of the US (especially for the poor) and the accumulating amounts of stress we live under, it’s NOT a given that she’s saying that if you have cancer, you chose to have it, or you caused it.

    What’s up with MS publishing such narrow and sensationalizing stories? It’s really disappointing.

  5. The author does not read Etheridge’s remarks charitably. Etheridge does not direct her remarks/judgments at Jolie but at the decision to have a preventive masectomy. Implicit in this article is the assumption that women should have to have the same reaction to having the BRCA gene–that it is a problem if some women find having a mastectomy “brave” while others find it “fearful.” I resent the way this article pits women against each other. Making Jolie a “hero” and Etheridge an “quasi ex-hero who needs to rethink her position.” Negotiating medical treatments is filled with unknowns and I don’t think we should expect or demand that all women experience their own or others’ decisions similarly.

  6. I’ve read and re-read Melissa Ethridge’s statement about how she felt about Angelina Jolie’s decision and public announcement and I can’t for the life of me see where she, as you claimed, “criticized Angelina for her choice. What I read was that her choice was different and then she expressed a differing opinion. I think that she is saying is that Angelina Jolie’s decision was an extreme decision and that there are a lot of other options between discovery of gene mutation and a full double mastectomy. She recommends that people consider all the options before making a decision like that. Most breast cancer is very treatable now, especially with early detection and I think that if we remain mindful of our bodies and use preventative health measures that some of us might not make such extreme choices. Must we sensationalize everything and exert our own criticisms on well intentioned and eloquently stated messages of hope? How is stress reduction, improved overall health, nutritious eating, and taking charge of our own beings bad?

  7. Socialist Worker says:

    Jolie has also announced that she will have breast reconstruction. A more interesting question might be is the reconstruction covered by Obama care as a medical necessity?

    As to Melissa Etheridge’s opinions concerning nutrition, stress and cancer they are unlikely to be borne out in medical science. Someone might just as well said that praying to God was the answer to cancer. She chooses chemotherapy yet why she would direct others to the nutrition, stress and acidity feel good answer to the cause of her cancer. If acidic nutrition was behind cancer then wouldn’t taking baking soda with every meal solve the problem? Of course not but that never stops these fools from making these kinds of statements.

  8. I find it a bit silly that you ask someone for their opinion and then, when you don’t like what they have to say, you criticize them for it. If you don’t want to hear what she has to say, don’t ask. If you already asked, then deal with her response a bit more respectfully.
    She had put up an amazing fight for her own health and, clearly, it has become a spiritual experience for her. When she is faced with Angelina’s choice, she can’t just suddenly say “Oh, yeah, that’s better; I wish I had done the same.” She has to stand up for her own way.
    And weather this seems blaming or not, it is the case with genetic diseases that they simply mean a greater likelihood of manifesting the disease. It is not a certainty. It is life stress, feeling overwhelmed for an extended period of time that tends to switch on these genes.
    I do believe, though, that Angelina is doing amazing service for women and the cause of breast cancer treatment and I admire her very much. But what she did is only available to people with a lot of money. So, we better hear what Melissa has to say!

  9. Barbara Peeters says:

    I am twice a cancer survivor and I applaud the fact that we have choices and that they are ours alone to make. I find it interesting that some would consider Jolie’s choice either fearful or brave….it was a choice that Jolie made and good for her. Many times when a celebrity gets interviewed on a regular basis, they can fall into believing their own publicity and start making judgements regarding other people’s choices and actions, when in fact, it’s not for them to judge.

    • Ali Reilly says:

      Barbara Peeters captured my thought perfectly from “I applaud . . .”

      Having more choices makes it more likely that you can find the right one for yourself!

  10. Someone asked her opinion, and she gave it. Sounds like this commentator is now opinion shaming.

    • I don’t see the malice in Ethridge’s comment. I read it as making the choice to do what Jolie did is a scary choice, so is going the path of any another treatment. It is all scary. This doesn’t mean there’s no bravery. The author of this piece is stirring up bees inappropriately.

    • Good point.

  11. diane hart says:

    It was a choice and I think a brave choice in consideration of Angelina’s profession. We must remember we are not our bodies we are who we are as people. That said my mom beat cancer twice. What the doctor told her was (in the 1970′s) that stress was a huge factor and that she should think pink.

  12. Thank you very much for this story. I completely agree with the perspective of Ms. Kort. Yes, there are a lot of things that determine whether a person gets cancer or not, but everyone needs to make the decision that is right for their own situation, and it is not helpful to label legitimate, valid choices as fearful. And, yes, there are things that can be done to reduce the chance of getting cancer, but even if you do all those things, you could still end up getting cancer. Sometimes people are just unlucky, and that’s no one’s fault.

  13. Deborah Groenendyk says:

    You’re putting words in Melissa Etheridge’s mouth. She did not say that if someone gets cancer, it’s their own fault. She expressed her belief that, in her case, she understands how her body developed a cancer. Scientists are looking more seriously into the body’s response to environmental factors as contributing to the growth of cancer. I do not view prophylactic mastectomy as a brave choice either. It is based on the fear that someone might someday get cancer. Granted, the presence of the gene mutation may make it more likely, but it is not definite. I disagree with your assessment that Melissa is “shaming” anyone who gets cancer.

  14. Both Ms. Etheridge and Ms. Jolie have faced a challenge that many of us will never have to deal with, and we don’t really know what we would do in their situation. Please allow each person to meet the challenge of cancer in the way she judges is best for her. When I had to deal with a looming cancer, I chose to preserve all the parts of my body I could. My husband made the opposite choice in a similar situation. I thought he was wrong, but it wasn’t my decision, and although I was saddened and scared I didn’t criticize him.

    As a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, with an awareness of the ways in which our thoughts, emotions, nutrition, activities, relationships and more affect our health, I understand what Ms. Etheridge is trying to point out. The tricky part is taking responsibility for what we can control about our health– which is generally far more than we realize– without blaming and shaming ourselves or others. It can be a delicate balance.

    Having the BRCA gene, or any other genetic marker for a disease, definitely does not guarantee getting the disease. It means, however, that one has the opportunity to take care of oneself as well as possible to prevent that outcome (maybe including Ms. Jolie’s response if that looks like the best choice). Socialist Worker’s comment above shows ignorance of what science really does say on this issue, and I would strongly suggest that SW do some reading in epigenetics, the study of how internal and environmental factors, including those inside our heads, affect the expression of our genes. We don’t entirely understand why one person with a given genotype gets cancer and another doesn’t, but we do know quite a bit.

  15. I don’t believe she is making any sort of judgment about anyone else’s situation. However, she is making the point that cancer is not a strictly formula-driven eventuality. As an herbalist, I work with cancer patients and have seen them achieve miraculous results with simple herbal infusions and various simple and inexpensive herbs and foods.

    Many cancer survivors have a deep spiritual experience and become aware of stuck energies inside themselves that can help give rise to cancer and all kinds of other diseases. The mind-body connection is well-documented, and the placebo effect is quite powerful. If a patient is convince they are receiving a miracle cure pill, they often heal taking nothing more than sugar pills or simple aspirin tablets.

    I would hope the author would cut Melissa Etheridge some slack and give her the benefit of the doubt. Support would be better.

    As to Angelina Jolie’s situation, she has watched 3 female members of her family die of breast or ovarian cancers in the past few years. Such experiences make an impact emotionally. I support each and every woman’s decision about her health care, whether I would choose it for myself or not. Who are we to judge others?

  16. Geniva S. says:

    I was just offer this test due to my family history and I refused it for several reasons and that is my right to make decisions about my body. Every woman should have the right to make those decisions…period.
    Melissa, I agree with your approach and share many of your beliefs, and to me A. Jolie is not being brave just doing what strong women do… making her our choices.

  17. Kathy Stanford says:

    My dad was a vegetarian for the last 20 years of his life and he died of ALS and dementia. My mom also made healthy decisions about what she ate and died last August after fighting 2 rare lymphomas. I don’t know what causes cancers and other diseases to manifest. Is it the pollution and stress we all live with? I’ve known some very happy, laid back people; healthy people who have succumbed to cancer.
    While I don’t agree with Ethridge’s assessment of why she got cancer, nor her belief that Jolie’s choice was not brave, I do think she has the right to speak her mind.
    Have we forgotten how to agree to disagree? Is it so important to point the finger and say someone is wrong and I am right, with no leeway in between? I am so sick of the polarization of how we are supposed to think and speak. Where will it stop? I admire both women; they just made different choices in dealing with this and both have helped many women.

  18. One problem with quotes, celebrity or otherwise, is all that is thought but not said aloud in that moment. Ms. Etheridge seems to be asking us to be more aware of the non-genetic contributors to cancer. This does not equate to blaming herself for a once active cancer, nor Ms. Jolie for hers. This is neither shaming nor blaming. It is a request to look outside the box.

    Brave or not brave? Dependent on too many factors for me to say. Each woman has her own reality to consider.

    I’m a two-time cancer survivor: malignant melanoma in 1983 and cancer of the thymus in 2000. What I know has changed over time. How I have chosen to respond to cancer has also changed. If I say that cancer can be a teacher, does that make me a cancer-promoter?

    I expect more from Ms. Magazine. More depth, more awareness, more subtlety. It was lacking here.

  19. Yes, we are largely responsible for our own health. It is not “cancer-shaming” to express that opinion. We are dealt a certain genetic hand, and then it is our own responsibility to work with it. We may differ in our opinions about what causes cancer or what to do about it when it happens, but that’s OK. I know women who have gone the same route as Ms. Jolie; good for them. I know people who view and handle the issue as Ms. Etheridge does; good for them. They’re all ALIVE. I am tired of women being viewed as helpless victims, which is what this Ms. commentator sounds like she’s doing. And here’s my strong and unpopular opinion on a related issue: all you meat eaters have EARNED your cancer and heart disease. I wish my taxes and health insurance premiums didn’t have to cover your stupid and unethical choices.

    • And what about those who have not eaten meat for 40+ years and still get cancer? Is that unearned cancer? The risk factors are everywhere–from our environment to our genetics to our lifestyle choices to our unavoidable lifestyle realities. The point is, we should all stop the shaming and blaming of others for their diseases and not judge what the “brave” choice or the “fearful” choice is.

  20. I hear you, Michele, about personal choice—-but I also have to say that my gut reaction is to agree with Melissa about this being more of a fear-based choice than an informed choice. This type of medical science is still in its infancy, and two weeks from now we may find out that the concept was nothing more than an interesting theory. Honestly, there is just as much (if not more) chance that Melissa’s theory is correct. It would be a shame to see hundreds of thousands of women following Angelina’s celebrity lead when they didn’t really need to do so. As for the sexuality of breasts, often proactive breast surgery like what Angelina decided to opt-in for will in fact make for higher, more firm (“youthful”) breasts for Red Carpet gowns. It will also mean a ton of publicity. Angelina is an interesting woman, certainly, but she’s also made some other odd choices — including seducing another woman’s husband from within a cultural context (acting) where both she and he understood the unspoken agreements between professionals but didn’t care enough about the consequences of someone else’s life to at the very least WAIT for one relationship to be properly closed before leaping in and TAKING — so I’m really not game to leap in myself in trusting her motives. She’s an odd duck, that one.

  21. I think that the media added more fuel to this than it deserved by featuring it with headlines that made it seem that Etheridge was disparaging Jolie’s choice. I do agree that she could have said it more eloquently, but ultimately, our fight with this entire issue is misplaced if we worry about who might be shaming whom. The fact is, it is a complex decision, but it’s one that most women won’t ever get the chance to make because they can’t afford the test anyway (much less the surgery). If we put more emphasis on ensuring that every person in this country has access to the healthcare they need and into looking at the environmental and behavioral influences on cancers of all kinds and less on dissecting rhetoric, we might actually get somewhere.

  22. KarenLyon says:

    I have three problems with this article and with this entire “controversy”. To begin with, I agree with the comments that slamming Ms. Etheridge for her opinion is inappropriate, and probably an overreaction. I do not understand why we are all supposed to admire and lionize a woman who has had major surgery as a way of avoiding cancer and dismiss someone else in the same situation that has chosen another path. Both of those women have a right to feel differently and to discuss how and why they do approach the problems in a dissimilar way. Secondly, while I do not condemn Angelina Jolie for her choice, I not completely on her side. I understand that she reduced her likelihood of getting breast cancer with that surgery, but I have doubts about the long term implications. I started out as a biology major in college (and am the daughter of a nurse), so I understand some of this stuff. I wonder — how do we really know that women can avoid cancer by having a mastectomy? We know — it stops breast cancer, sure. But our bodies are complex, and I’m not convinced that we have a genetic predisposition for one kind of cancer only. It looks like that now, because women have this surgery and are less likely to get cancer. But it’s early days yet. Angelina Jolie’s choice is not only difficult, it’s hardly routine. What happens if this surgery does become routine and then that gene can’t express itself — that is, cause breast cancer? We assume that the gene testing and surgery Ms. Jolie went through is the magic bullet, but there are always unintended consequences. We don’t know that the cancer will never show up somewhere else, we just think we do. Which brings me to my last problem. And this is not a knock on people who take good care of themselves, avoid smoking, red meat, and so forth. But again, our bodies are complex, and we can’t control everything. The danger I see with both Ms. Etheridge’s and Ms. Jolie’s positions is that by eating right, having surgery, avoiding wine, whatever, we can guarantee that we’ll live long and healthy lives. i won’t even go into the examples where that did not happen. I think what’s getting lost in this conversation about whether Angelina Jolie made a “brave” choice or not is the reality that it still might not be enough. We can do our best to take care of ourselves, whatever that looks like in our personal choices, but we should avoid being arrogant and smug about what that means for our longevity, because we’re not guaranteed that in any case.

  23. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/melissa-etheridge-stands-fearful-jolie-comments/story?id=19430484#.UcalKdjhcwN

    “Andrea Geduld, the director of the Breast Health Resource Center at Mt. Sinai Hospital said she believed that Etheridge’s comments were out of line.

    “Is she saying it’s better to confront cancer? We don’t have clear prevention strategies for this type of cancer, we only have risk reducing strategies including mastectomy, oophorectomy and high risk surveillance,” Geduld said.

    Geduld said she finds Etheridge’s criticism of Jolie puzzling, given that Jolie’s choice to have a double mastectomy couldn’t have been an easy one and didn’t appear to be a stunt or political act.

    “A lot of people make this same decision to reduce the fear and anxiety that comes with having the high risk of cancer hanging over their heads,” she said. “We wouldn’t criticize someone for wearing a seatbelt to reduce the risk of dying in an accident, so I’m not sure why we would criticize someone for having a mastectomy when we know it cuts their risk of getting cancer.”

    Experts also caution that some of Etheridge’s statements aren’t accurate.

    “We do know that diet and nutrition play an important role in cancer prevention and survival but they appear to be more helpful for people with non-genetic cancers rather than people who are at high risk for genetic cancers,” said Dr. Julie Silver, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School who specializes in cancer rehabilitation and is a breast cancer survivor herself.

    Silver said there is literally no scientific evidence that diet, exercise or stress reduction would help a woman fitting Jolie’s genetic profile avoid the disease.

    Dr. Charis Eng, the chair of the Lerner Research Institute’s Genomic Medicine Institute at the Cleveland Clinic, agreed that faulty genes are sometimes so strong that they cannot be reversed with lifestyle interventions. Women who are potentially in the high-risk category need to make sure they are getting good information from a reputable source, she said.

    “The best course of action is to seek out the advice of a qualified genetic councilor who can help make decisions about what to do next, based on accurate genetic advice — that is the correct message,” she said.

    And Silver stressed that women certainly shouldn’t base any of their healthcare decisions on a celebrity’s opinion.

    “Any celebrity who is not a medical doctor but offering medical advice should not be doing that,” Silver said. “Celebrities may have wonderful talents in other areas, but if they are not medical experts they should refrain from offering medical advice to anyone else.”

  24. Marilyn says:

    Melissa Etheridge was asked her opinion and she expressed it. Her opinion differs from Angelina Jolie. That does not constitute shaming. Despite the comments to the contrary, there is substantial evidence that 70 to 75% of disease – including heart disease, cancer, diabetes – is lifestyle related. Nutrition and stress are factors, as Etheridge correctly pointed out. That is not giving medical advice – it’s just stating a fact. A resource for more info on the role of nutrition in cancer is http://www.BeatCancer.org.

  25. Valerie Buickerood says:

    Angelina Jolie’s decision was deeply personal and based on what she felt she could personally deal with, for reasons only she can define for herself. It is unfortunate that another female cancer survivor did not refuse to make public judgment that decision.

  26. Ashley Steimer-King says:

    Who put Melissa Etheridge in charge of deciding what is and isn’t brave? Women who get preventative mastectomies? Brave. Women who choose not to get them? Brave. Women who get chemo? Brave. Women who choose not to? Brave.

    Cancer is fucking scary. Sugar-free vegans get it and meat-eating smokers get it, stressed-out wall street bankers get it and so do toddlers. I got it (at 29), made the best choices I could, and it went away. A friend of mine got it (at 24), made the best choices she could and she died. She’s certainly not to blame because she died and I’m certainly not to praise because I lived.

    Every cancer is different, every body is different – and we all make the best decisions that we can at the time. (In concert with out doctors, families, faiths, etc.) Let’s support each other’s healthcare decisions instead of judging and shaming. Cancer is hard enough.

  27. Maureen says:

    For gosh sakes, Etheridge expressed HER OPINION. It doesn’t matter if you like it or don’t like it.

  28. Kimberly says:

    I’m really disappointed in the quality of this post. Etheridge was asked her opinion and gave it. I see no evidence that she was judging or “shaming” anyone else who might choose differently. Can’t we leave this sort of cheap, surface analysis for the mainstream media? Instead, can’t we reserve the Ms. environment for honest, thoughtful, serious analysis and discussion of real issues in the lives of women?

  29. Frances in California says:

    Wow. Ms., you’ve really struck a raw nerve here . . . I don’t think Melissa meant to shame Angie. It reads as though Melissa is taking responsibility for her own choices. That’s a good thing. Angie doing it her way is also taking responsibility for her own choices (yes, pretend-leftist posting above, “Obama Care” won’t cover reconstructive surgery because it’s not the Single Payer that we all need, but it will prevent the blood-sucking insurance companies from refusing to cover it due to “pre-existing conditions”). Hey, Ms.! Look at us! We’re having an extensive discussion of cancer! Good for us!

  30. Gosh, I am so glad to see Melissa Etheridge survive, but like so many people, the complete an overwhelming fear of cancer drive them to seek ways and philosophies about the disease that give them a sense if power when they feel powerless. If her premise is right, she can avoid getting it again by diet and stress management. These are only factors with this disease. This is a double edged sword if misconceptions, one is that “I am in control of whether or not I get this disease” and two, sexism towards women who get it. Does stress and poor diet cause cancer in 2 year old children? Or men who get prostate cancer? And what brings on all the other types? I wish, as a survivor myself, I could believe cancer was so simple, but there are no facts behind it this theory. Also, it is not ‘lots’ if people living with the brca gene, it is only about 15% who avoid the disease. I congratulate Angelina Jolie, and can feel relief knowing she will never be sickened with the disease and is free to go become a grandmother. All is well for Melissa too, but as a public figure she should be more responsible in what she delivers as facts, many are listening.

  31. Upon the recent discovery that my mom has the BRCA2 mutation after having breast cancer twice, second time at age 80, I got tested. I tested positive. My sister is negative. My oldest daughter is negative. Three more daughters to get tested. I had made up my mind to have the risk reducing surgeries before my results were in. The day I received my results I was very calm. I told the genetic oncologist of my decision and she was quite pleased. Then I saw the breast surgeon. She told me all three options and the risk reducing surgeries provided the best outcome in my mind. She agreed. Then I saw the plastic surgeon. He spoke about this being a serious decision, about how my reconstructed breasts will not be like my natural breasts. He said they won’t move the same, look the same, or feel the same. He said I will have days where I’ll wish I hadn’t had them removed. But he said in his opinion it is the best decision. My mom just had a MRI of her remaining good breast. She was so nervous to hear the results. They saw a benign cyst. She said she can’t live with this worry and wants that breast removed. She is a strong woman, never cried over her breast cancer and she lives with multiple sclerosis. She’s a fighter and she is brave and should not be labeled as someone operating from a position of fear. Melissa does a disservice to the general public when she says that she lives a healthy lifestyle to prevent the gene from getting “turned on”. The gene is a tumor supressor gene that is turned off when it was in the embryo stage. It doesn’t work. It never has and it never will no matter what you do. It is supposed to assist a protein RAD51 in the repair of DNA. We get two copies of the gene. One from each parent. One can’t do the work of two. That is why there is an increased risk of cancer. Scientist believe other undiscovered genes can be at play. Until there is a way to repair the mutated gene the risk reducing surgeries give the best prognosis in my and many others opinion.

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