By Ashley Yarchin
SWANSEA, Ill. (KSDK) - On Tuesday Angelina Jolie took the spotlight in a way she never had before, one way more familiar to this Swansea mother of two, who is 37, like the celebrity herself.
"This is a big deal," said Joanne Kelly of Jolie's announcement.
The two now share more in common than Kelly could've ever imagined.
"It brought back memories, but I also think it's great that she's a celebrity and people know her and that she can probably influence this cancer community and those who could be future previvors like me," she explained.
Kelly was 32 when she learned she carried the genetic mutation that gave her an 87 percent chance of developing breast cancer and 50 percent chance of getting ovarian cancer. Her mother, grandmother and great-aunt had all had at least one of them.
Four months later, Kelly did as Jolie and underwent a double mastectomy. Three years later, she had her ovaries removed as well, which lowered her chance of developing either cancer to just 2 percent.
"I may look normal on the outside but underneath it's really not so normal, but you have to wrap your brain around your new reality," Kelly said.
Which Jolie did through her op-ed in the New York Times, and Kelly has done daily by reaching out to those she works with as an oncology nurse at St. Louis University Hospital and the local outreach coordinator for FORCE, Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered.
"I am able to be a face for them to show that you can still lead a normal life and that you can be very empowered by choosing to be proactive and take some rather drastic measures," she added.
While insurance will often cover the costs of surgery and reconstruction as a preventative measure for those with the BRCA gene, those who can't access that kind of help can contact the local organization Gateway to Hope through their website or call 314-569-1113.