Would cancer make an exception for a Hollywood star?

Cancer does not make exceptions. This disease is unexpected and can affect each and every one of us… even Hollywood stars.

Angelina Jolie: “Knowledge is power”

Angelina Jolie is one of the people who faced higher risk of cancer, and dealt with it for the second time. She wrote her story in The New York Times, in order to help other women facing high risk of cancer. She first writes that even when her blood test results were normal, she decided to see her surgeon (who was her mother’s surgeon too) to check her ovaries. The test’s results were a big relief because they didn’t show any sign of cancer. After all these, she finally had the surgery, removing her ovaries and fallopian tubes, and entering forced menopause.

Having been informed of the changes in her life, she was ready to tackle the consequences. Her view is that there is only one thing that women must keep in mind: you do not choose being a cancer patient, but you can decide if you take control and face it head-on. And as she highlights at the end of her article: “You can seek advice, learn about the options and make choices that are right for you. Knowledge is power.”

Reactions on Angelina Jolie’s article

Predictably, many bloggers have commented on Angelina’s story.

For example, this blogger had the exact same feelings as Angelina. Not only does she know what it means to have cancer - but also the nurse in her orthopedist’s office used to be the practitioner who administered radiation therapy to her mother when she was facing cancer herself. She completely agrees that choice among available options is a personal matter, and as she puts it, “Cancer, like any disease, is an immensely personal issue, and any and all decisions resulting from a diagnosis should be personal”.

”My cancer was a life-changing opportunity”

Besides Angelina Jolie, there are people in the world who, even thought have cancer, decide to fight, hope, advise, help, think, wonder and even smile. Here are some examples...

A blog revealed Margo’s story. Margo was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer. She didn’t give up and she found ways to tackle her disease, even if her symptoms had been increasing. As she searched for other options, she found a so-called “aggressive treatment”. This had treated patients from advanced ovarian cancer, but not all doctors are in agreement with it. Reading her story will make you realize that, there is nothing that people will not do to stay alive.

This blogger, on the other hand, has stomach cancer. Her condition drove her to participate in a clinical trial, to investigate a potential treatment. Thankfully for her, this experimental treatment stabilized her disease. Find out how she describes her experience.

Renee’s story is a not another breast cancer patient story. It is a story about acceptance. Acceptance of yourself and of your body’s limits. Renee was able to accept that she is allowed to feel like a mess after her chemotherapy treatment. Exploring and accepting her body’s limits made her feel proud; proud to be a woman, a woman so strong to accept her situation and not to fall in a “rabbit hole”. Read the story of such a brave woman.

Have you ever wondered how to speak to someone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer? Joanne, a breast cancer survivor for 11 years, decided to write an article offering some tips on how to support someone who fights cancer:

  • Tip #1: Each person’s reaction is different. People have real feelings and will react differently, based on those feelings.
  • Tip #2: It is not all about you and your journey or the journeys of others. Be sensitive to every person’s journey. Make sure you do not compare. 
  • Tip #3: Keep your opinions to yourself. Let’s keep it simple. You should be the sanity not the drama.
  • Tip #4: Sometimes saying nothing is when you have shared the most. A smile, a nod, or a sigh, are all worth a million words. Sometimes there are moments where there is nothing that can be said. Words aren’t everything.
  • Tip #5: Sometimes the only way to speak is from your heart, not your head. Speak with compassion, love, understanding, and kindness.
  • Tip #6: Are you up for visitors? Keep in mind and respect that some people need time alone to processes the experience and diagnosis.
  • Tip #7: Reach out. Let them know you are thinking about them
  • Tip #8: Offer practical help and support. This is where you, knowing your talents/gifts best, can put them to good use by offering a helping hand. The meaning of life is to find your gift; the purpose of life is to give it away.

She also reminds us that to the world you are just one person, but to one person you are the world.


Marianne has looked forward to her last surgery for almost 15 months. She had been fighting cancer for over a year. The truth is that the day before the surgery it was the last and only night she hadn’t slept - not from fear but because of excitement and impatience. What a great feeling to wake up in the morning and feel like a new person, like a person who finally finds the peace inside. Read how Marianne achieved this.

Nic discovered she had cancer by herself. She has learned about breast self-checks by her former college professor who as a survivor knew the importance of early diagnosis. So Nic’s post is a reminder that you need to check your breasts and love your body. And, as she says, “this little bit of self-love just might save your life”.

Finally, Margaret wonders whether folate can protect you from breast cancer - and if it does, how much folate does a young woman need for this protection? Thankfully for the rest of us, she provides some references to articles and other sources to satisfy our curiosity.

More from around the web

Having been inspired by the stories of these amazing women, let’s have a taste of news about cancer from around the web...

Saint Baldrick hosts an amazing annual event, where 5 to 80 year olds shed their hair to raise childhood cancer awareness as well as money for research. It’s an inspiring story involving hundreds willing to change their appearance to hopefully save children’s lives down the road. As a patron said, “It makes me feel like I am supporting those people with cancer".

Southampton and Cambridge University researched young women with breast cancer. In particular, the researchers evaluated PREDICT, a prediction computer program which is supposed to predict patients’ survival with information from 3000 young women diagnosed with estrogen receptor (ER) positive and ER negative breast cancer in the UK between 2000 and 2008. When considering all cases together, it was found that PREDICT underestimated the number of deaths within five years of diagnosis by 25%, with around 610 deaths occurring in total compared with around 460 predicted.

Suleika Jaouad wrote an article in New York Times about her journey to “find herself” after cancer treatment, as she tries to refine her identity. She understands that she can’t go back to her old life, but she really doesn’t know how to move forward. In the end, she finally realizes that the task of rebuilding your life after something as devastating as cancer can be disorienting and destabilizing. We can only wish her luck in rebuilding her life wisely.  

Finally, a survey showed that 7% of breast cancer biopsy readings were false positives. This means that a woman might undergo surgery, or other forms of treatment – without needing to. Also, it illustrated that 32% were false negatives, meaning women wouldn't know they are at increased risk of cancer. Clearly, this is quite worrying for every woman having a biopsy for breast cancer, but it is an important aspect to be aware of. After all, cancer is one of the most complicated conditions, and affects our body in ways that are sometimes hard to detect.

Cancer: not just a disease

These stories make something very clear: these are not cancer patient stories about pain, suffering, despair and death.  On the contrary, they are about love and acceptance showing us that cancer can be more than all that.

All these people discovered that cancer is not only a horrible disease, where pain and frustration prevails. They saw an opportunity to find and share love, to themselves when they faced it or to their loved one who faced it. A chance to redefine their identity, to find and welcome their body as it is, to love their body and soul and to accept that they can feel pain, that they are allowed to express it and ask for help. 

For them, cancer was a chance to take control of their life, to identify their power, to understand that for the first time, they are the one who have to make a choice, to fight back and to decide on how they want their life to be. Let’s be inspired by their strength and claim the life we want.


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