Angelina Jolie made the brave decision to undergo a preventive double mastectomy after learning she carried the BRCA1 gene that made it extremely likely (an 87% chance) that she would get breast cancer or (a 50% chance) ovarian cancer.
Jolie, 37, was very close with her mother Marcheline Bertrand, who passed away at the age of 56 after losing her seven-year battle with ovarian cancer.
"She held out long enough to meet the first of her grandchildren and to hold them in her arms,” Jolie wrote Tuesday in an op-ed for the New York Times: “But my other children will never have the chance to know her and experience how loving and gracious she was."
Bertrand lived long enough to meet the eldest three of Jolie and her fiancé Brad Pitt's six children -- Maddox, Zahara, and Shiloh.
Aside from Pitt and the kids they share together, Jolie’s mother was the most important person and influence in her life. Jolie was estranged from her father, actor Jon Voight, for many years after he and Bertrand divorced in 1978. "She raised me," Jolie has said. Bertrand dabbled in acting, but she gave it all up to raise her two children, and it’s clear that Jolie admired her mother’s strength as a single parent.
Bertrand was a very private person, so Jolie would visit her all the time at her apartment in Beverly Hills, California. When speaking publicly, though, Jolie couldn’t help but praise her mother and share what a special connection they had.
"I will never be as good a mother as she was," Jolie told CBS News of her mother in 2011. “I will try my best, but I don’t think I could ever be. She was grace incarnate, the most generous, loving -- she’s better than me."
Jolie remained close with her mom until the very end. So, it’s no surprise that after watching Bertrand’s health struggles first hand, Jolie would take action to ensure history doesn’t repeat itself.
"There is no longevity on my mother's side of the family," Jolie told Esquire in 2010. "My grandmother also died young, so my mother always thought it could happen to her. But she lived to see her grandchildren, lived to see both me and my brother in a nice place. She was a real mother that way. She waited till everyone was okay. Then she closed her eyes."
She closed her eyes in January 2007, and Jolie, Pitt, and her brother James Haven, were all by Bertrand’s side when she passed. "There are no words to express what an amazing woman and mother she was," Jolie and Haven told People in a statement. "She was our best friend.”
Jolie was heartbroken after her mother died. However, she continued living a life her mother would be extremely proud of. Jolie now has six children and is planning a wedding in the future with Pitt.
"I can tell my children that they don’t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer," Jolie writes in the New York Times.
Words her mother would most certainly be proud of.
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