Angelina Jolie mourned the death of her aunt, Debbie Martin, who died of breast cancer on May 26, 2013, but has lived with the specter of cancer deaths her entire life.
“Angie was acutely aware that cancer was killing her mother’s side of the family,” Bill Day, the boyfriend of Angelina’s late mom, Marcheline Bertrand, told Inside Edition.
“People she grew up with were all dying: Her mother died. Her uncle died. Her grandfather, her grandmother. Everybody on that side of the family all died of cancer.”
Day, who dated Marcheline for 12 years before she succumbed to ovarian cancer in 2007, said Bertrand had lived in “constant fear” of cancer because of her family history and was obsessed with healthy living.
“She had a very strict regime because as she believed, if she drank lemon and water every day, it would help her immune system,” said Day, who helped raise Jolie. “Angelina would see this every day and know what it was for.”
Angelina’s family history spurred her to get a preventive double mastectomy in February 2013 after genetic tests revealed the Oscar winner had an 87 percent risk of getting breast cancer and a 50 percent chance of contracting ovarian cancer. As a result of her mastectomy, Jolie’s breast-cancer risk has dropped to under five percent.
Angelina, who has six children, was well aware that cancer had decimated her maternal family line.
“There is no longevity on my mother’s side,” Jolie told Esquire in 2010. “My grandmother also died young, so my mother always thought it could happen to her.”
While Jolie is still recovering from reconstructive breast surgery (which she underwent in April 2013), she plans to remove her ovaries in the near future. The ovary-removal procedure, called an oophorectomy, calls for the removal of both ovaries. Removing the ovaries reduces the risk of ovarian cancer by 80 to 90 percent by reducing the amount of estrogen and progesterone circulating in the body.
Ron Martin, the husband of Angelina’s late aunt Debbie, said Jolie made the right decision to proactively remove her breasts. “Because of the BRCA gene in the maternal side of the family, Angelina did the smartest thing on earth,” said Martin.
Angelina married Brad in August 2014 in a fairytale wedding ceremony at Chateau Miraval, their sprawling wine estate in the South of France. The couple, who is the parents of six children, met on the set of their 2004 blockbuster, Mr. and Mrs. Smith.
Angelina, who has been a United Nations goodwill ambassador since 2001, discussed how her charity work has changed her outlook on life in Notes from My Travels.