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Angelina Jolie and BRCA1: One woman's medical journey [Chat]

May 14, 2013|By Los Angeles Times Staff
  • Anna Gorman, right, with Dr. Beth Karlan before surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in 2006.
Anna Gorman, right, with Dr. Beth Karlan before surgery at Cedars-Sinai… (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles…)

Angelina Jolie announced that she had a preventive double mastectomy because she had a  gene that made likely she would get breast cancer.

Writing in the New York Times, Jolie, 37, said:

“My mother fought cancer for almost a decade and died at 56. She held out long enough to meet the first of her grandchildren and to hold them in her arms. But my other children will never have the chance to know her and experience how loving and gracious she was. They have asked if the same could happen to me.”

In 2007, Times Staff Writer Anna Gorman wrote about the drastic surgery she had after learning she had the genetic mutation, BRCA1. The mutation increases the risk of certain types of cancer. From her story:

Two weeks after my blood was drawn, a nurse from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center called me with the results. I was in my car.

"Honey, it's positive," she said.

I don't know what I expected, but it wasn't that. I started crying and pulled over. I knew it didn't mean I had cancer, but that's how it felt. I somehow registered her saying that I could be part of a research program for high-risk women.

I immediately called Coll. We had been dating more than two years and although we hadn't talked about it much, I thought we would eventually get married. He was on the same path but not as far along. In fact, he had been reluctant to buy a couch together because of the commitment.

He was filming a documentary in Rwanda. After reaching him through his translator's cellphone, I started to speak, but tears came first.

"I'm scared," I said, rattling off the risks and describing the recommended timeline for surgery.

I was nervous about how he would react, but I gave him a deadline for putting an engagement ring on my finger -- five months later, by the time I turned 29. I knew it wasn't fair. I hated pushing him. Even I didn't feel ready to have children.

He listened and tried to comfort me, telling me everything would be OK and that we would talk more when he got home.

Weeks later, my sister took her test. The results were negative. I was relieved for her, but I couldn't help feeling envious. She didn't have to worry about sprinting toward marriage and starting a family.

Gorman will answer reader questions about her medical journey during a chat with Times reporter Joseph Serna. Readers can ask questions.

The chat will be at noon.


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