Angelina Jolie has been lauded all around for penning her New York Times op-ed about her decision to undergo a double mastectomy for preventative reasons. But she wasn’t the first celebrity to undergo the procedure. Below, a roundup of the famous women (and one man) who bravely chose to go under the knife in hopes of beating breast cancer. These are edited versions of their experiences, as they shared in their own words.
After finding out that she carried a faulty BRCA gene in 2012, the Osbourne family’s matriarch decided to undergo a double mastectomy for preventative measures to reduce her breast cancer risk.
Her Experience: She told Hello! magazine, “As soon as I found out I had the breast cancer gene, I thought: ‘The odds are not in my favour. I’ve had cancer before and I didn’t want to live under that cloud: I decided to just take everything off, and had a double mastectomy. For me, it wasn’t a big decision, it was a no-brainer. I didn’t want to live the rest of my life with that shadow hanging over me. I want to be around for a long time and be a grandmother to Pearl. It’s not ‘pity me,’ it’s a decision I made that’s got rid of this weight that I was carrying around.”
At the end of 2011, Rancic underwent double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery after a lumpectomy failed to eradicate the cancer cells.
Her Experience: “I had these surgical bras they gave me that covered everything. At first I didn’t want to look in the mirror, because I felt like, I’m getting better every day and this is about my health, so I shouldn’t get bogged down by what I see in the mirror,” she told Glamour. “I knew I wasn’t going to look like a bikini model, so why look? Then one night before we went to bed, I decided I wanted to see what I was dealing with, and I wanted to do it alone. So I unzipped and just looked. Then I called Bill [her husband] into the bathroom because I was torn. There were scars and bruising and part of me felt terrified, but part of me felt like, hey, they actually don’t look as bad as I thought. I didn’t know whether to cry or be happy. I think I started going into a little bit of shock.”
Applegate underwent a double mastectomy in 2008 after getting diagnosed with breast cancer and testing positive for the BRCA1 gene mutation. She followed up the mastectomy with reconstructive surgery.
Her Experience: On her Good Morning America appearance, Applegate shared, “Sometimes, you know, I cry and sometimes I scream and I get really angry and I get really like, you know, into wallowing in self-pity sometimes. And I think it’s all part of healing, and anyone who’s going through it out there, it’s OK to cry. It’s OK to fall on the ground and just scream if you want to.” She added, “I’m going to have cute boobs ’til I’m 90, so there’s that. I’ll have the best boobs in the nursing home. I’ll be the envy of all the ladies around the bridge table.”
The comedian decided to have a bilateral mastectomy in 2011 after being diagnosed with an early stage of breast cancer. She went with the surgery because breast cancer was already rampant in her mother’s side of the family and she wanted no chance of having to deal with the disease.
Her Experience: “Cancer is cancer. You can go back every three months and get it checked and have a mammogram, MRI every three months just to see what it’s doing,” she told Ellen. “But, I’m not good at keeping on top of stuff … It sounds scary up front but what do you want — do you want to wait and not be as fortunate when it comes back? … I was like, I don’t know, should I talk about it or what? How many things could I have? I’m black, then lesbian. I can’t be the poster child for everything. At least with the LGBT issues we get a parade, we get a float, it’s a party. [But] I was real hesitant about doing this, because I hate walking. I got a lot of [cancer] walks coming up.”
The Academy Award–winning actress decided to have the procedure done in 2012 at age 64 after receiving a breast cancer diagnosis earlier in the year.
Her Experience: “After much consideration, I underwent a double mastectomy,” she told People. “Luckily, I don’t have to undergo radiation or chemo. My family calls me Kat because I always land on my feet and thankfully this is no exception. My doctors have assured me I’m going to be around for a long time. I’m looking forward to getting back to work doing what I love to do.”
The talk show host underwent a double mastectomy at age 19 when a doctor misdiagnosed a torn pectoralis muscle for male breast cancer.
His Experience: He told Doctor Oz, “For the next ten years, I never took off my shirt because of the mastectomy scars. Just like people suffer from their body image, believe me. I walk by a mirror —if I’m not what I think is the perfect shape, my brain goes back to being 19 — butchered.”
CNN’s Early Start anchor announced today that she will have a double mastectomy. She’s currently unaware if she carries BRCA genes, but she will get tested for them. Her surgery is scheduled for May 28.
Her Experience: She wrote on her Facebook page, “I struggled for weeks trying to figure out how tell you that I had been diagnosed with breast cancer and was leaving to have surgery then..Angelina Jolie shares her story of a double mastectomy and gives me strength and an opening. #bravewoman.” On her show, Sambolin said, “You know, it’s nice to hear somebody else talk about it and have that support of a lot of women around you. At the end of the day, I need to have peace of mind. I need to sleep at night. I have two kids that are my world, like any woman, and it’s what you think about. So I thought for me, this would be the best decision moving forward so I could feel confident that it’s not something that I’m going to have to deal with that much more in the future.”