A Thank You to Angelina Jolie

This morning SHARE Breast Cancer Program Director, Christine Benjamin, read Angelina Jolie's piece in the New York Times outlining her decision to undergo a laparoscopic bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy. In the letter Christine shares her own story and offers her view on Ms. Jolie's situation. Here is the letter that Christine sent.

Dear Ms. Jolie,

In the year 2000, when I was 36 years old, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, making me one of five women in my family to get pre-menopausal breast or ovarian cancer and the only one to survive. Like you, I carry the BRCA 1 gene mutation, and after having a double mastectomy to treat my breast cancer, I underwent a prophylactic oopherectomy. Other family members since have been tested and have opted for preventive surgeries as well, and they are alive today.

Your honest accounts of having a prophylactic mastectomy and an oopherectomy make a huge difference in raising public awareness about options available for women. I know that some people will respond by saying they would never have their breasts or ovaries removed for preventive purposes. But in your situation, and in mine, the choice was obvious -- life vs. death. I wish there were more choices available, but at this time, there aren't.

I want to thank you for all that you're doing to publicize the fact that in some situations, what seems like a drastic decision is actually a viable option for some people. As you say in your New York Times Op-Ed piece, the most important thing is for people to learn their options and to make the choices that are right for them.

For me, it has become a mission to help people affected by breast and ovarian cancers learn their options and get the support they need to face these diseases. For the past four years, I have worked as Breast Cancer Program Director at SHARE, a nonprofit organization that serves people affected by these diseases, empowering them with information and support so they can make informed decisions. All of our services are free of charge and are provided by survivors or people living with these diseases who are specially trained to offer the kind of assistance that can come only from someone who's been there.

Thanks to your honesty and willingness to share your story, our work to educate and support people will become easier.

With gratitude,

Christine Benjamin