Angelina Jolie’s aunt, Debbie Martin, has passed away at the age of 61 after battling breast cancer.
Her death comes less than two weeks after Jolie revealed that she had a preventative double mastectomy after testing positive for a “faulty” BRCA gene that could lead to breast cancer.
Martin was the younger sister of Jolie’s mother, Marcheline Bertrand, who died from ovarian cancer in 2007 after a 10-year battle at age 56.
Martin’s husband, Ron, says his wife had the same defective BRCA1 gene that Jolie does, telling People magazine, “Because of the BRCA gene in the maternal side of the family, Angelina did the smartest thing on earth. It takes a lot of courage to have your breasts removed.”
In a New York Times op-ed published earlier this month, Jolie explains how her family’s history with cancer influenced her decision to undergo the surgery.
“My doctors estimated that I had an 87 percent risk of breast cancer,” she wrote. “Once I knew that this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much as I could. I made a decision to have a preventative double mastectomy.”
The megastar wrote of her mother, “She held out long enough to meet the first of her grandchildren and to hold them in her arms. But my other children will never have the chance to know her. We often speak of mommy’s mommy, and I find myself trying to explain the illness that took her away from us. They have asked if the same could happen to me.”
Jolie started the medical procedures in secrecy back in February, and completed the process at the end of April.
“The decision to have a mastectomy was not easy,” Jolie wrote. “But it is one I am very happy that I made. I can tell my children that they don’t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer.”