The plight of Angelina Jolie split opinions yesterday over whether or not she was real “news”. Yes, she is a celebrity, in a newspaper that avoids celebrity “gossip” and puts other celebrity articles on a single page so you can avoid them if so desired. But her experience is also real “news”.
As our very own Lisa Markwell wrote yesterday, she was the one who chose to reveal her story. She was not doorstepped by reporters, hounded by paparazzi, or caught unawares by an interviewer. “But she’s still a celebrity,” I hear you cry.
What she has gone through affects thousands of women – and men – every day. She did not have breast cancer, but carried a gene which meant she had an 87 per cent chance of developing the disease. When confronted with those odds, you may say she had little choice in opting for a double-mastectomy.
But, no matter what the chances of getting full-blown cancer, how many of you could proceed with major surgery to remove a body part, which is currently healthy, before you had to?
It is a hypothetical question for most of us, but many are left with no choice. That doesn’t mean that making a proactive decision is any easier. Too many people plump for the bury-your-head-in-the-sand option, ignoring medical advice in the hope that the issue will go away, despite the desperate odds.
It would have been very easy for Jolie to keep quiet and disappear from public life for a few months – no one would have been any wiser. But by using her fame and profile – and going public with it – she will encourage others to make that tough, potentially life-saving choice. That is precisely why we consider it “news”.