BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Mother and Oscar-winning actress Angelina Jolie publicly announced Tuesday that she has undergone a double mastectomy. Jolie, whose mother died from breast cancer at age 56, learned she had a gene mutation that dramatically raises her risk for developing breast and ovarian cancer.
Jolie took drastic action, believing it will save her life. She wanted other women to know they can do the same thing and possibly prevent cancer.
Two local women underwent the same procedure and are glad to see Jolie raise awareness. Madeleine Nagy had her operations a little more than a month ago at Roswell Park Cancer Institute.
Nagy had her 3-year-old twin children, Anastasia and Alexander, in mind when she made the decision to have both her breasts and ovaries removed last month. Like Jolie, she had watched her mother struggle with cancer. And though Nagy's mother survived, she did not want to put her own children through the ordeal.
"It was really hard for my sister and my brother and I to watch my mother suffer through both rounds of cancer, and that was something that I refuse to allow my children to watch," Nagy said.
She had lost both grandmothers and two aunts to cancer. Her sister is now dealing with breast cancer.
Nagy's operation was difficult, but her children, even at age 3, understand why it was important.
"They know that I'm going to be around, and that's the most important thing, and that's the reason I would do it again in a heartbeat," Nagy said.
Jolie says her fiancé Brad Pitt was by her side for "every minute of the surgeries." Nagy says her husband Jerry was the same.
"I have the best husband. He was very supportive of my decision, and, of course, as he says, he is just as selfish, because he jokes that there is no way that he could raise the children by himself," Nagy said.
She applauds Jolie for going public and for getting a big message out there.
Nagy stated, "We now have the ability to make a decision before we get sick."
Anne Courtney, a nurse who works with cancer patients at Roswell Park, also had both of her breasts and ovaries removed. She had tested genetically positive, after undergoing a lumpectomy in one of her breasts.
"I was sad that that part of my life was over, that I would not be able to have children again, and that I would not look as much like a woman," Courtney noted.
But her overriding concern was for her son Frank, who was in high school at the time.
"My son was young. He was in high school," Courtney said. "I wanted to be around for him."
Courtney says the support of her parents and her co-workers and friends got her through the surgeries two years ago.
"I think that a lot of us don't really consider ourselves courageous though," Courtney said. "We're presented with options and we take the best options for ourselves."
Courtney says she is doing great after reconstructive surgery, and is back working full-time at Roswell.
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