Are We Really Supposed To Believe Angelina Jolie Is A Heroine Or Something?

Yesterday Angelina Jolie announced to the world that she underwent an elective, preventative double mastectomy after learning that she was positive for the BRCA1 gene mutation that greatly increases her risk of breast and ovarian cancer. For being aware and doing what she felt was the right decision for her and her family in the face of heightened risk, I applaud her.

But all over Twitter, Facebook, and the Google News aggregate, people are harrowing her as a 21st century heroine; a pioneer in women’s health and preventative medicine. She is so brave and an inspiration to us all – blah blah blah.

Huh? Are we really supposed to believe Angelina Jolie is a heroine or something?

Jolie decided to undergo a genetic test after careful consideration that she might be at heightened risk because of her mother’s own cancer death. She had the money to spend on a test that many, many women cannot afford, and that very few insurance companies even cover. Why does the fact that Jolie had the money to have this test, and therefore went ahead with it, make her brave? A national heroine? Wealthy women around the country do this test every day. Do they all get to write op-ed pieces about their harrowing experience? Does Twitter make them national legends and pioneers in modern medicine?

Or what about all the women that very likely carry the gene, know they probably carry the gene because of their strong family history of disease, and yet cannot afford to ever know? Do they get hashtag trends like #bravewomenthatwillneverknow or #alwayslivinginfear?

When Jolie found out she was positive for the gene mutation, she decided to have an elective, preventative, double mastectomy, with nipple preservation and complete reconstructive surgery. In other words: another pile of procedures that are expensive and usually not covered by the vast majority of American health insurance policies. So basically, up to this point, all Jolie has done is opt to have a number of medical tests and procedures done that are reserved for the wealthiest and most elite members of society. She has opted for luxuries when it comes to her medical care, which many women in this country have absolutely no access or ability to afford.

How is Angelina Jolie a heroine and pioneer in women’s health again?

Many doctors do not even recommend prophylactic mastectomy in the event that a woman has a heightened risk with the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations. There are a number of preventative hormone treatment options available, increased preventative testing, and lumpectomy options that are much less invasive and expensive. Why this is worth mentioning is in the discussion over our country’s current trend towards going to extreme lengths to eliminate risk (which can never truly be eliminated entirely). And in understanding the drastic difference between risk factor and cause – as Americans, we tend to misunderstand that risk does not equal certainty or causality.

But as a culture obsessed with trying to cheat death, we tend to heighten risk into the most extreme measures possible to the point that we do more damage than good. People are so afraid of the extremely rare risks of vaccines, so they avoid them altogether and then die of polio. Families are fearful of GMOs and processed foods, so eat only whole foods and fats then die of heart disease from ingesting high fat foods for years on end. And we look to national figures, such as Jolie, for guidance on what we should do. How we should think. Even when we don’t have the same resources that they do.

Each woman’s health is a different matter entirely, though. As is her financial status, and the risks and health issues that she will face. I am not suggesting that Jolie or anyone should or shouldn’t do any particular thing relative to her own health. That is not what I’m saying here. What I am saying is that none is more special of a circumstance than the next. We are all the same in the playing field of life. We just have different stories.

I have always believed that the only real preventative medicine we should be engaging in is accepting the imminence of our own deaths and enjoying every minute of our lives, rather than spending them all cowering in fear of what may come. Or at the very least, let’s worry about things that are really important right now. Not saying breast cancer risk is unimportant or should be forgotten, but much worse by the dozen is heart disease risk, obesity, diabetes, war, famine, the threat of nuclear holocaust, global warming.

Congratulations to Angelina Jolie on her new, risk-free boobs. Now can we all shut up and move on already?

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I’m a loser, baby

If you’re like me, any thought of the 90s is immediately accompanied by a music flashback to Beck’s Loser.  I have many-a-fond memories of kicking back in high school and loving Beck more than life, itself.  Like many other teens during the dawn of teen angst, that song was my battle cry; and very likely, I was just as much a loser as the next kid.

So it should come as no surprise, then, that even hearing or reading about losers harkens me back to that song of my youth.  This morning, reading Darren Hardy’s How to Be a Loser blog post was no different.  The publisher of SUCCESS magazine, Hardy blogged with intention to look at what makes a loser from a satirical standpoint … a guide, so to speak, to becoming one of those many people walking around with the big L dangling from their forehead.

The thing about Hardy’s blog is that, while it raises some excellent points, it also is a bit too general to hit the mark on each point.  In one instance, Hardy says you can make yourself a loser by never setting goals and only taking things day by day.  Sure, this may be true in some instances, but it is so general and does not necessarily apply to everyone.  There is such a thing as getting too out of control with your goals; and for some going through major life issues (marriage, divorce, new baby, death in the family) day-by-day is the only way to survive.  Ultimately, I think the blog would have been more effective if Hardy had gone with a straight-forward approach; his backhanded way of talking about loserdome just doesn’t jive with the advise he is trying to give.

Beyond that, though, I think the idea of how to be a loser is still a good one.  This week has been all about balance:  the healthy way to live life to its fullest.  With that and Hardy’s blog post in mind, I decided to create my own list of ways to be a loser.

I’m a loser, baby #1:  

Lose sight of happiness in the name of undefinable goals

We all know someone that has done this.  Rather than let themselves live in the present, they are so far in the future and/or the past that they can’t even tell you what they are feeling right now, let alone whether or not they are happy.  And in many cases, they come to the end of the rope only to realize that everything they gave up was not worth it.  Goals and plans are important, but there is something to be said for being both emotionally and physically present in the now.  And hey:  you never know what could happen – you could leave for work tomorrow and get hit by a truck.  Laying on the concrete, dying, will you regret not having savored life now at least once in a while?

I’m a loser, baby #2:  

Always eliminate people and things from your life that deviate from the way you are

It is astonishing sometimes to hear people say that they broke up with someone because they saw things differently, or that they decided to give up certain things in their life because it got in the way with what was most important to them:  them.  Yesterday we talked about things the world doesn’t stop for... I’ve got news for you, faithful blog followers, you are included in that list of things.  Life is about both a give and a take; and the truth to the matter is there is not one person or thing on this planet that will see entirely eye-to-eye with you.  Some (myself included) might even go as far as to say that people who are much different than you are good in the sense that they offer a more well-rounded view of your otherwise closed circuit life.

I’m a loser, baby #3:  

Never take risks.  Ever.

I recently read Eric Sevareid’s “Canoeing with the Cree,” which is a true memoir about a 2250 mile canoeing trip up the Missouri River into Canada.  The trip took place in the 1930s and had never been done before, let alone by two 18 year olds, fresh out of high school.  The main focus of discussion at my book club (which the book was read for) was focused on this idea of risks:  that we do not take risks anymore, be it physical or emotional risks, like they did less than a century ago.  Life is about continual leaps of faith, and to think of anything as a safe venture is just foolish.

I’m a loser, baby #4:  

Don’t keep things in perspective

Ever talk to someone that blows everything so far out of proportion, and gets so caught up in the “what if”s and “I assume”s of the situation that it makes you want to stick a piece of dynamite in your ear and make your own head explode before they get a chance to do it with their incessant blathering?  This can go a lot of ways.  One is in the case of the overachieving idealist.  Sure, it’s great to have ideals and forward-thinking ways of living; but it’s another thing to not look at the situation realistically and pragmatically.  Another is in the case of someone that acts as though a minor event is the absolute end of the world.  It’s not, bitch.  Get some perspective.

I’m a loser, baby #5:  

Constantly blame other people for your problems

There are certainly a lot of things out of your control; just as a lot of times people around you influence you to do things you may have otherwise not done.  But enough with the blame-game, loser.  Nothing is more annoying than someone that cannot take responsibility for any of his or her actions; especially when they go as far as to suggest a change in the way things happened, or put words in people’s mouths or assign intentions in people’s minds.  Chances are, unless you are 15 years old or a complete douche, you were at least 80% responsible for the situation you are blaming others for.

Am I a loser, baby?  Some people might say I am.  I certainly try and avoid the five scenarios above, and in fact, I generally try and live by (at least most of) Hardy’s list too.  But then it takes one to know one, doesn’t it?