Angelina Jolie may not always (ever?) want to discuss her love life, but she is always ready to open up about health and humanitarian issues. In a new essay for Time, the 44-year-old reflects on her family's history of breast cancer, and her decision to get a preventative double mastectomy and to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes to prevent the cancers that killed her mother and grandmother.
She wrote: "I simply feel I made choices to improve my odds of being here to see my children grow into adults, and of meeting my grandchildren. My hope is to give as many years as I can to their lives, and to be here for them."
Jolie shares Maddox, 18, Pax, 15, Zahara, 14, Shiloh, 13, and 11-year-old twins Knox and Vivienne with ex-husband Brad Pitt. Her mother died of breast and ovarian cancer at age 56 in 2007. She decided to get a double mastectomy in 2013 after losing her aunt and learning that she carries a mutated BRCA1 gene, which makes her more likely to develop breast cancer.
In 2015, she has an ovarian cancer scare, so she opted to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes.
"I have lived over a decade now without a mom. She met only a few of her grandchildren and was often too sick to play with them," Jolie continued. "It's hard now for me to consider anything in this life divinely guided when I think of how much their lives would have benefited from time with her and the protection of her love and grace. My mother fought the disease for a decade and made it into her 50s. My grandmother died in her 40s. I'm hoping my choices allow me to live a bit longer."
She added: "People also ask how I feel about the physical scars I carry. I think our scars remind us of what we have overcome. They are part of what makes each of us unique. That diversity is one of the things that is most beautiful about human existence."
The Oscar-winner continued, however, that "the hardest scars to bear are often invisible, the scars in the mind."
"I have learned that when it comes to women's health, medical advances are only one part of the picture" she said. "Mental and emotional health, and physical safety, are just as important."