Angelina Jolie’s surgeon has revealed that just four days after she underwent a preventative double mastectomy the Hollywood actress went back to work.
Dr Kristi Funk wrote a blog post for Pink Lotus Breast Center in which she further explained the three-month treatment Jolie opted to undergo earlier this year, and about which she told the world in a New York Times article yesterday.
Dr Funk describes phoning Jolie, 37, in February, a day or so after the operation to remove both her breasts, to “confirm our biggest hope: all of the breast tissue was benign”.
Visiting the Tomb Raider actress at her home just four days after the major surgery Dr Fink writes: “I was pleased to find her not only in good spirits with bountiful energy, but with two walls in her house covered with freshly assembled storyboards for the next project she is directing.”
“All the while she spoke, six drains dangled from her chest, three on each side, fastened to an elastic belt around her waist.”
The project Jolie was working on is believed to be a film version of Laura Hillenbrand’s World War II story Unbroken.
The blog post also reveals Brad Pitt’s support of his wife during her treatment. Dr Funk writes: “On 2 February 2013, Angelina was in the operating room for the first operation, the nipple delay. Her partner was on hand to greet her as soon as she came around from the anaesthetic, as he was during each of the operations.”
Describing the reconstruction surgery, Dr Funk writes: “Angelina’s body type was best suited to an implant reconstruction with allograft (synthetic sheets of material, that create a more natural look). Although tissue expanders required an additional operation, she preferred to use them.
“Expanders maximize blood flow to the breast skin and nipple (because they are not fully expanded right after placement, they do not compress the tiny blood vessels in the skin), and they allow us to optimize the final implant size, location and appearance.”
The surgeon said she put Jolie on a course of dietary supplement to help her prepare for and recover from the surgery, aiming to reduce the risk of infection, to keep postoperative nausea at bay, and to help eliminate anaesthesia from the body after each procedure.
Describing the gruelling physical impact the operations had on Jolie, Dr Funk writes: “[On day five] she had her first injection of saline into the expanders, thus beginning the process that would gradually prepare the tissues for the final stage of her operations, reconstruction. Four of the six drains were removed. Four days after that, on postoperative day nine, the last two drains were removed. A second saline fill occurred on 4 March. Over the next four weeks she was hard at work.”
“The final operation occurred on 27 April 2013, ten weeks after the mastectomies: reconstruction of the breasts with implant, which went extremely well, bringing an end to her surgical journey.”
Writing in the New York Times yesterday Jolie explained her decision to undergo a preventative double mastectomy after doctors identified that she carried the BRCA1 gene mutation and an 87 per cent risk of developing breast cancer.
Her mother, Marcheline Bertrand, died of ovarian cancer in 2007 aged 56.
Jolie said she wanted to reassure her six children - three biological and three adopted - that the illness that took their grandmother would not do the same to her.
She wrote: “I can tell my children that they don’t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer. It is reassuring that they see nothing that makes them uncomfortable.”
“They can see my small scars and that’s it. Everything else is just Mommy, the same as she always was.”
She also thanked Pitt, describing him as “so loving and supportive”. Yesterday he called his wife "absolutely heroic".
Jolie has since revealed she is “grateful and overwhelmed” by the public support she has received.
New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof tweeted that the actress wished him to pass on her gratitude for the public’s outpouring that greeted her article.
“I've spoken to Angelina Jolie several times in the last few days, and she has been so strong, so brave, so determined,” he wrote.
“She wants to use her medical issues to nurture a national conversation on health options. No self pity; she just wants to help. Angelina also asked me to thank everyone: She is so grateful and overwhelmed by the outpouring of public support.”