Angelina Jolie’s Mastectomy, Al Jazeera, and the Peanut Gallery

So….Tuesday at 3pm I was sitting around in a coffee stained t-shirt, blogging and tweeting.  And I got a call from Al Jazeera.  “Can you come in for a live interview this evening?”

“Huh?!  Um, ok!” I said.   The clip below was the result of a very random and improvised day for me.

And I think this is just the beginning of a much longer conversation we need to have, which is fantastic!!  But I’m writing this post for my fellow Previvors, some of whom are upset about the uninformed commentary out there.  With that….here are three things to think about.

1.  There will always be heckling from the peanut gallery.  Here is an example of what I mean by heckling.  Here is another one.  And here too.  And I know some of us have faced the same comments from family and friends as we moved forward with our own decisions.  Uninformed (and sometimes bigoted) commentary can make our blood boil….but my hope is that these idiots don’t bother you.  They don’t bother me!  Because strong opinions will spark people into debate rather than the same old apathy.  And because the key to driving change is embracing teachable moments.  And I think we have to separate teachable moments from those who are just focusing on drumming up controversy for the sake of controversy.  A friend of mine over dinner last night said it best.  Opinions are like assholes….everyone has one.   So….a toast to the peanut gallery!!

peanut gallery


2.  Collaboration is so much more important than competition as we move the conversations forward.  I have been writing, speaking, and blogging about my own experiences with BRCA for a year now.  And there are amazing groups and activists who have been at it much longer than I have, and these groups are doing great work.  Over the past 24 hours I have noticed some mean spirited/judgemental comments, some trashing of other different groups’ missions and motives.  My hope is that we can squash this pettiness and start working together.  We are not going to end cancer through petty fights between support groups, charities, and politics.  We are going to change the conversation by having respectful and lively debates about the complexity of cancer prevention.  Let’s stop haggling with each other about who the brave ones are, and focus being productive.  My goal is to find smarter ways to prevent cancer.  What’s yours?  And while we’re on the subject…..

3.  We need to find smarter ways to prevent cancer.  This is what I care about.  I believe someday soon we’ll have better options than what we have today as BRCA carriers.  And I even think finding smarter ways to prevent cancer for BRCA carriers might help move research forward for non-hereditary cancers too.  Our options today aren’t good enough.  Yes, we can celebrate the fact that BRCA is finally becoming part of a wider public conversation.   I trust women to get the facts, and understand that genetic testing isn’t for everyone.  And my hope is that families everywhere will start asking tough questions about their options to prevent cancer….beyond just understanding BRCA.   Because this is how we move forward to a different way of thinking instead of oversimplifying cancer.

And finally….From a Previvor’s perspective, here is a great little cartoon shared by Rosalarian that might help those who still don’t understand.  It’s okay if you don’t understand.  But it’s not okay to minimize our need to make medically informed choices.  I hope you are willing to start a nice long conversation where we all learn something!


Art from the Very talented Rosalarian


  1. This is … perfect. Thanks – have shot this across the universe. Or at least the parts of the universe that include people who read my sh*t on social media.

  2. This is great…. I would just add the reminder that there’s more than the BRCA 1/2 out there to test for and worry about. Women need to be aware and educated on the other genes that can raise your risk significantly. I’m positive for the PTEN mutation and proceeded with preventative surgeries this winter.

  3. GREAT stuff.. but I don’t expect anything less from you because you are GREAT…

    Mary makes an excellent point about additional genes that have been identified and in some cases (probably mine), should be tested for. Some hold high risk, some lower risk but the all have risk….

    Here’s the big question? How are you going to get yourself off the watch list for doing an interview with Al Jazeera???

    Love you..

  4. Ann Marie and Mary – Absolutely! We are just beginning to learn about genetics and cancer. Have you heard of a book called One Renegade Cell? I highly recommend it (though I’m still working to finish it myself!!)

    There are many more mutations out there beyond BRCA1/BRCA2 mutations. And countless undiscovered mutations with varying levels of risk….which could help us create better diagnostic tools for prevention! There is so much work to be done here.

  5. Great interview! I like how much you stress that making this decision is a personal one and born from a combination of factors.

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