Sad news: Debbie Martin, Angelina Jolie’s maternal aunt, died this Sunday after a nine-year battle with breast cancer. This comes less than two weeks after Angelina’s breast cancer story rocked the world and sparked widespread talks about the disease and its treatment options.
Debbie was the younger sister of Angelina’s mother, who died of ovarian cancer in 2007. All three women carried the “faulty” BRCA1 gene that Angelina describes in her now famous New York Times Op-Ed.
Unlike Angelina, Debbie didn’t discover her BRCA1 gene in time to take preventative measures against breast cancer. Her husband Ron says the 61 year old didn’t know she had the defective gene until after she was diagnosed in 2004. But afterwards, with that knowledge, Debbie chose to have her ovaries removed to reduce her chances of getting cancer again.
That makes Debbie (pictured above) the first woman in the family to attempt preventative surgery. Bill called her “a shining example to Angelina,” and “the unsung heroine of this story."
Jolie won’t be able to attend her aunt’s funeral this weekend because she’ll be in London for the premiere of Brad Pitt’s latest movie, World War Z. Debbie’s husband says Angelina has been sending her support every day.
Ron is also telling reporters that the family plans to start a charity for this very personal cause. 'We are hoping to raise money for women who can't afford to get BRCA testing,” he said, “so that every woman in America will have access to BRCA testing that could save her life - no matter how much money she has.” That's certainly worth fighting for.