Tag Archives: Angelina Jolie

Kitsap’s Angelina Jolie connection

News this week that Angelina Jolie has had a preemptive double mastectomy shines a spotlight on BCRA1, the defective gene that puts carriers at high risk to develop breast and ovarian cancer.

According to NBC News, Jolie, 37, revealed on Tuesday that she carries the BRCA1 gene and that she had mastectomies in February on her otherwise healthy breasts. In April she had reconstructive surgery, Dr. Kristi Funk said in an interview with The Associated Press.

According to an article in the New York Times, some breast cancer experts feel that Jolie’s revelation will carry a lot of weight in influencing women to become fully informed about BCRA1.

I thought this would be a good time to reprise a post from March, 2012 on Justine Avery, a South Kitsap grad and the daughter of county Assessor Jim Avery. Justine also carries the gene, and she documented her decision to undergo prophylactic mastectomy in a personal blog. Here’s Justine’s story again.

SKHS grad makes preemptive strike against breast cancer
March 13th, 2012 by Chris Henry

Justine Avery is tired of living with a ticking time bomb. Avery, who carries the BRCA1 genetic mutation, has an 85 percent chance of developing breast cancer. The disease killed her mother Sandy Avery, first wife of Kitsap County Assessor Jim Avery, in 1989, when Justine was 9. So Justine has decided to get a prophylactic (preventative) bi-lateral (both sides) mastectomy.

The date of the surgery, Thursday, has been set for some time. Justine has approached the impending procedure with courage and a sense of humor. A 1999 South Kitsap High School graduate who lives with her husband Rob Sands and works in Seattle, Justine was feted by friends at a recent “Ta Ta to the Ta Ta’s” party. Her BFFs who put it together “made a very naughty cake.”

“I’m very supportive of it. I think it’s a very wise thing to do,” Jim Avery said of Justine’s decision.

Justine, who also has a 40 percent chance of developing ovarian cancer, has kept friends and family up to speed with a blog. Part of her motivation in going public with such a private matter is that she has been part of two studies on genetic predisposition toward ovarian cancer, and she hopes to raise funds for the Marsha Rivkin Center and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Because of the research, high-risk women like her can get free screenings twice a year, something not covered by insurance.

Justine’s raised nearly $4,000 toward a goal of $10,000. That’s not counting about $2,000 raised from the Ta-ta party, with part of the donations coming from the sale of ta-ta-tinis … two olives. The support of friends and acquaintances — some of whom she hasn’t talked to in years — means a lot.

“It’s kind of made me feel at peace with my decision,” she said. “It’s kind of made me realize that what I’m doing is the right thing. It’s the right decision.”

More importantly, Justine said, she wants to share information with and offer support to other women who may have the gene, or who like her have already been tested and face some tough choices. Justine is not telling others what to do. On the blog, she simply shares the back story of her bold decision.

Her mother was diagnosed at age 38 (Justine is now 31). “I don’t remember a time when my mother wasn’t ill,” Justine said. And yet that didn’t stop Sandy Avery from living a full life. “It was always in the background. She was a wonderful mom with a great spirit. The cancer didn’t stop her, up until the last hour. She was a great mom.”

The aggressive cancer spread to other organs, and Sandy Avery died after six years of rigorous treatment. Other family members who developed cancer were her aunt, who survived breast cancer diagnosed in her 40s but later died of ovarian cancer, and her cousin, diagnosed in her 30s, who is a cancer survivor.

After her cousin’s diagnosis, some members of the family were tested for the “breast cancer gene” and found a positive link. Justine’s older sister, who escaped the BRCA1 gene, urged her to get tested, but Justine resisted, at least at first.

“Maybe to some degree I have always felt it was only a matter of time before the other shoe dropped,” she wrote on the blog. “Maybe it was because I was sick of the anxiety of going to get my boobs squeezed between two pieces of glass once a year and I figured that if I didn’t have the gene, I would not have to revisit this for at least another 12 years; or maybe it was to shut everyone up already…. Regardless, I truly believe the decision I made 3 years ago at the age of 28 is going to save my life.”

Justine is quick to point out that cancer caused by the gene is relatively rare. “Only 7 percent of breast cancers are caused by a genetic mutation (BRCA1 and BRCA2). If someone in your family has been diagnosed with breast cancer, it most likely means they are part of the other 93 percent. It’s when you see patterns of early diagnosis that you should start to consider genetic testing.”

Justine’s gut reaction to the whole situation: “This sucks! … Up and down for sure. I’m dealing with the suckiness of it all. I have a wonderful family who has helped me sift through the decisions I’ve been confronted with.”

Justine outlines the choices facing women who test positive for the gene. The first is vigilance in the form of frequent mammograms, MRIs, blood tests and ultrasounds.

“I am so thankful for the constant screening. My mom didn’t have the opportunities I have. But to be honest I’m getting tired of it,” she wrote.

The second option involves a five-year course of a chemotherapy drug called Tamoxifen, which results in early (and temporary) menopause, cutting her cancer risk in half.

“The last option may seem ‘radical’ to some: a bilateral prophylactic mastectomy. In other words, amputation of my precious boobies, because they will most likely kill me. I have chosen the latter of the three.”

Back to the time bomb analogy, there’s a 15 percent chance that, like on the cartoons, a little white flag saying “boom!” will pop put of the bomb, all that worry for nothing. But there’s really only one way for Justine to control the outcome and avoid a diagnosis she calls “unacceptable.”

“I still am haunted by the fact that I’m cutting off two perfectly normal (and quite lovely I might add) breasts for something I ‘may’ get,” she wrote. “But here’s the thing, ‘may’ in this circumstance means an 85 percent chance … That also means I only have a 15 percent chance of not getting it. I will sit at a craps or blackjack table for hours but I would never play those odds.”

Justine wants to have children and so is delaying a decision on removing her ovaries at this time. She knew you’d want to know.

According to Justine’s oncologist, about 50 percent of women with her type of family history elect prophylactic mastectomies, and about 80 percent get hysterectomies once they are done having children.

Since genetic screening has only recently become more common among families with a strong background of breast/ovarian cancer, Justine hopes writing about her experiences will help other women navigate this new frontier in women’s medicine.

“I am actually the first one in my family who is ‘choosing’ to do this preventatively. It can feel lonely sometimes,” she wrote. “This is my way of not only documenting this time for those in my family that may come later, but also helping to create awareness of breast cancer.”

My Scottish Psychic Friend in South Kitsap

UPDATE: There is a Psychic Fair Saturday in Bremerton. The item on our calender states, “This event features a day of enlightenment and healing provided by the area’s most gifted psychics and healers.”

This may not surprise you. Not once in my life did I ever think my dead relatives would communicate with me while I was sitting in a trailer in a South Kitsap neighborhood.

This story began with a walk I made in downtown Bremerton last week, where on a utility pole I saw advertised a woman from Scotland was offering a class in beginning mediumship. That flyer seemed to have the ingredients to an interesting story. Who among you knew there might be that kind of interest here? Seattle, sure, but Kitsap?

Catherine Mccafferty, known professionally in her role as clairvoyant and spiritualist as Cathy Mac, is here from Arrochar, Scotland until Oct. 14. She came at the invitation of her sister, Port Orchard resident Margaret Boosinger, who Thursday was appropriately dressed in a “Ghostbusters” T-shirt. Boosinger came to the U.S. years ago as a Navy wife.

The class was supposed to be all day Friday for $150 at Bremerton’s Quality Inn & Suites. It turned out there were no takers. Mccafferty now attributes that to the price, one that was recommended to her by a California spiritualist. People will apparently pay that kind of money there, she said, but not here.

That doesn’t mean there is no interest in that brand of spiritualism here. On a visit to a farmer’s market Mccafferty said she visited with a woman reading Tarot cards and has heard of others in the county. In the phone book there is one “Spiritual Consultant” in the Yellow Pages, between “Spices” and “Sporting Goods-Repair.” There are also psychics in the book and online.

The abilities Cathy Mac says she has of receiving messages from spirits passed is one her sister shares and is trying to improve. The two had tried to get those improvements made over the phone, but it wasn’t working. So Boosinger put up the $700 for Mccafferty’s round trip to Washington.

Our European guest received her certification in February following three years of study at the UK arm of the International Spiritualist Federation. The organization’s chief aim, according to its Web site is to advance spiritualism as a “science and philosophy.”

Mccafferty herself got into the practice after years of having enough experiences to finally convince herself she had the gift. She didn’t always believe it. “You think yourself crazy sometimes,” she said. The catalyst for her was when a family member died. The man’s wife was wanting a message from her late husband, so the group of them went to a spiritualist church. Mccafferty said the message came through her.

The money she earns, she said, she gives to charities looking for a cure for multiple sclerosis, an ailment that has her 26-year-old daughter wheelchair bound. Although the Bremerton class fizzled, she said she’s stilling willing to offer readings for, say, a small group of people for a smaller donation.

When I contacted her and found out the class was canceled, she said she was willing to do a demonstration. I arranged a time and a photographer. It didn’t dawn at me at the time that the demonstration would be a reading specifically for me. As the hour came closer, though, I did realize this thing was likely to be personal. I went in nervous.

Mccafferty carries a comforting air about her, though, as does Boosinger. Neither asked me anything about myself, which was reassuring. Mccafferty explained that legitimate spiritualists operate under the instructions, “Don’t feed the medium.” My instructions were to answer “yes” or “no.”

Mccafferty pulled out a pack of “Messages from the Angels” cards and began shuffling. Laying down cards on the table she picked up one at a time and gave me messages she said were from deceased ancestors and those of my wife. Boosinger also helped point out some of the things she saw on the cards.

I won’t bother trying to determine here in this blog entry whether what the Scottish woman visiting her sister told me was true. I went in a skeptic and came out no more convinced. Some things didn’t make any sense, but might later, Mccafferty said. The ideas were vague enough to believe that a skilled huckster could perhaps pull off what looks like spiritual connection. I don’t think Mccafferty is a con, because I believe that at least she believed what she was telling me.

True or not, some of what she said was nice to hear.

This next bit is where it will go off the rails for many of you. Mccafferty said she had her only celebrity experience before coming over here. Marilyn Monroe told her, she said, “I didn’t O.D.” When asked what happened, Monroe was reported to have said, “Happy Birthday, Mr. President.”

I doubt that closes any books on that conspiracy. I found a psychic website that said Monroe visited a lot of psychics when she was alive, but also said she mostly haunts sites around Los Angeles and that other psychics have said her death was an accident, not a suicide. There are other psychics who side with Cathy Mac.

Another psychic says Monroe wants Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt to buy her old house.

OK then. More important than that to me, though, is the good fortune coming my way, a kind of a windfall, Mac said.

You want some of that kind of news? Cathy Mac can be reached at (360) 434-4542 or at SpiritualistCathyMac@wavecable.com.