I read with great interest that Angelina Jolie had a double mastectomy. She has been called a heroine and a brave woman. I don’t deny any of that. It is a huge decision to make as a woman. Personally, I would be hard-pressed to make such a decision. It would be (as for many women), like losing a part of my female essence. So, I applaud her for taking such a big and brave step. She was tested for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene, and from results her doctors determined that she would have an 87% chance of developing breast cancer.
How does this testing work? According to www.geneticcounselling.co.za; testing in South Africa is limited. If there is no Genetic Counselling Lab in your area, someone will come to you, at your cost. Testing costs upwards of R4000.00 and is not always covered by medical aid. If your MA does pay, they only pay according to their rates (we all know that means you’re only likely to get 50% of your money back). You’ll then have to wait 2-3months for the results. According to them only one in four women carry the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations, and this does not guarantee that you will develop cancer.
So, after 2-3 months of nail-biting waiting, you get your results. Obviously everyone will hope for a negative result. That would be first prize. If your results are positive? What then? I guess that’s where the tough choice comes in- should you have a double mastectomy. Having the surgery will reduce your risk by up to 90%, but it’s not totally preventative. Surgery at a private hospital is around R65 000.00; and reconstruction is about R75 000.00. If you have private medical cover in South Africa, your MA will pay, depending on your fund and its rules. Also, you’ll have to get letters from your doctor to pre-approve the surgery.
Angelina Jolie is really lucky to be in the position where her money can buy her a few extra years on earth. That’s not the case for most people in South Africa, considering that 80% of our country’s population is only just getting by. Would our state hospitals, put a programme in place to test women and give them the option of a double mastectomy and reconstruction? I somehow doubt it.
Would I do it? Probably. I have two children, and I’d like to see them grow up and get married and live their lives. I’d also like to retire at the sea one day with The Caveman. But, there’s always a but, I might just always wonder if I’ll be getting the Big C any time soon. That’s the part that scares me most. Always wondering… Waking up in the mornings and wondering “Will today be the day that I find a lump?” Will I live my life differently? Will I live healthier? Those are questions I can’t answer now, but I can say “Maybe.” I do know that would not like to go through chemotherapy, I’d rather chose life and living, and living well for as long as I can.
To those of you out there who have gone through this: “Well done for your bravery.”
(Any corrections to pricing are most welcome- all my info is purely internet research.)