The Real Angelina Effect

Some things are hard to talk about, hard to say. And sometimes they are the most obvious things. Often they’re what you know in your heart to be true. So let’s talk about Angelina Jolie’s prophylactic double mastectomy and hysterectomy as a real factor in her and Brad Pitt’s breakup. After all, how could it not be?

Some things are hard to talk about because they're painful. The words aren’t painful. Actually words can be soothing, once the silence is broken. But when the words touch a memory of something incredibly painful, it’s hard to talk about it, and hard to look at it. And so it's easy to turn your head away. Change the subject. Have a drink. Stay busy. 

Why? Because it’s about pain that’s already happened. It comes from a memory of a past event that can’t be changed. Because it's already happened. Something irrevocable has happened, and that makes it irrevocably sad. That’s why it’s hard to talk about. Because it’s too late. Because it can’t be changed. And because the thing that can't be changed, changed everything, creating a time before it happened that we can’t go back to anymore. A time when something was lost forever. A time after which, no matter how much you whisper in the dark to it or call it's name, it won’t come back to you.

For all these reasons, it was hard for the media to say the most obvious thing about Brad and Angelina’s highly mediated divorce. Yet talking about this painful thing, looking at it, is the only way to heal it. 

Why pretend the couple didn’t lose something precious and irreplaceable after Angelina’s elective double mastectomy and ovarian hysterectomy, which put her in early menopause? Why pretend it didn’t change her in very dramatic ways, and change their dynamic as a couple? Was it because the two were given a script, and being talented actors, played their roles so well that we all believed the fantasy, the illusion, that one could undergo such invasive surgeries without changing that person forever. For all time. Not just the physical self, but the emotional self, and the mental self. The whole Self. Because they’re all connected.

So for the sake of healing, let’s say it once and for all. Let’s all own it. Let’s look it in the face. Angelina Jolie is one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood. She had it all, didn’t she?  Amazingly good looks, sex appeal, money, fame, Brad, family, children. Everything. Until the last role she accepted leading up to her divorce.

That role, which would change everything, was tagged The Angelina Effect by TIME Magazine. In this highly mediated, produced and polished role, Jolie played herself being the first cover girl for promoting invasive surgery as an acceptable prevention strategy for a genetic susceptibility to cancer. Through her courageous and stellar performance, American women were sold the message that surgically cutting out breasts and ovaries is a viable approach to cancer prevention. This message was broadcast, with Jolie’s help, to hundreds of millions of Americans smack in the middle of an out-of-control cancer epidemic.

Those in the alternative health community know there are many natural approaches to preventing cancer that are minimally invasive and safe that Angeline Jolie could have tried, had someone informed her of the real choices we have today. Surgeries like hers before a cancer diagnosis seem notably out of touch with how the bodymind heals genetic damage, and how epigenetic factors play key roles in gene expression. 

What Jolie wasn’t offered as a first response was organic real food as medicine, nutrient and antioxidant supplementation, juicing, oxygen therapies, natural immune therapies to bolster GcMAF production, endocrine balancing with bioidentical compounded hormones, and detox to optimize immune function in the liver, gut and kidneys. Maybe she wasn’t offered that because it’s not the standard protocol in America as it is in Germany and other countries. But why not?

Instead, surgeons cut away at Angelina’s genetic susceptibility by cutting off body parts that are the very source of her sexuality, her womanhood and her motherhood—her embodied Self. The Angelina Effect was a life science marketing wet dream for the high tech, highly invasive and highly expensive medical industry. But in reality, life science marketing is based on a fantasy of genes that mutate without environmental triggers and quick fixes that don’t really exist. 

With a cancer rate of nearly 1 in 2, is The Angelina Effect what 50% of us have to look forward to? Is the best response to our cancer epidemic to cut out body parts that have a genetic susceptibility? Doesn’t that sound like a horror story? It certainly doesn’t sound like a romantic love story. 

At the end of the day, Jolie’s leading role ended up being science fiction, no matter how polished by publicity photos to look like good advertising. We would do well to see it in a lineage with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein—a haunting story written by an early feminist meant to warn medical doctors of the dangers of their masculine hubris. In Shelley’s time, surgeons had just emerged as a profession, and their leaders made a deal with the Church to access cadavers for the study of surgical anatomy. The Church caved in under pressure to this unsavory request, and the age of modern allopathic medicine was born. I imagine many people at the time were aghast. Something wasn’t right about this arrangement, something was lost—a spiritual respect for Nature.

In fact, more loss was on the way, as the male medical profession proceeded to push midwives out of childbirth in order to create a new market for their services. Sadly, touching birth with the bacteria cultured in the dissecting labs of the dead, these first medical surgeons unknowingly launched an epidemic of post-partum deaths among mothers and infants that lasted until after Lister’s death when his germ theory was finally accepted.

Fast forward to today. We've all seen breast cancers, ovarian tumors, and cervical cancers in our communities. Who hasn’t? We are living in an epidemic. And we’ve also seen marriages fall apart after a woman undergoes conventional treatment for cancer.

Often the partner thinks he or she is doing the best thing by going along with whatever the doctors say, maybe even getting the best surgeon money can buy, acting quickly, being stoic, being strong. Being unwavering. Getting through it. And then, after it’s over, after it’s too late, suddenly the partner realizes that the person they loved isn’t there any more. She’s different. Her smell is different. Her hormones are different. And because her hormones are different her sexuality is different. Her intuition is different. Her thoughts are different. Her emotions are different. 

I suggest we call this the real Angelina Effect. And what was Brad Pitt's role in it?

Maybe he didn’t know what to do. Maybe he faked that it was okay with him. Maybe he let her down in how they made that decision—the most critical decision of their marriage. Maybe they rushed. Maybe he stepped away just in her moment of greatest need. Maybe in wanting to respect her decision, he didn’t know how to ask hard questions, do research, weigh in. Maybe he didn’t ask her to reconsider. Maybe he didn’t search out the minimally-invasive alternative approaches that could have been tried first. Maybe he could have paid more attention. Been more present. Been more curious. Been more protective.

Maybe under stress they both went back to what they knew best—acting. Just when they needed more than ever before in their marriage to show up in real time, refusing to be characters in anybody’s story but their own. And now, it’s too late. To go back is to open the door to regret and resentment. To horrible pain. To grief and loss. And a floating sense of betrayal, betrayal by medical doctors who didn’t offer non-invasive, natural alternative approaches first. Medical doctors who had their own unconscious agenda and their own hubris. That's a lot of suppressed emotions that could easily be projected onto a spouse coping with the stress of traumatic loss.

Maybe the couple was caught off guard, and in the moment when their marriage needed two bold co-directors, they simply weren’t ready to let go of acting in someone else’s script. And now, now it’s too late.  Because she’s not the same. And if she's not the same, they're not the same. And maybe no one prepared them for this.

How sad that every one in the media was busy pretending that Jolie's elective surgeries didn’t change her, and as a consequence, change her marriage. I believe that is the real Angelina Effect

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