Angelina Jolie’s aunt died of breast cancer Sunday, just two weeks after the Hollywood superstar revealed she’s had a double mastectomy to avoid the dreaded disease.
Debbie Martin, 61, died Sunday in a San Diego-area hospital, her husband Ron Martin told The Associated Press.
Martin had the same BRCA1 gene mutation that Jolie learned she has. The mutation is much more prevalent among Ashkenazi Jewish women than the general population.
Martin was the younger sister of Jolie’s mother Marcheline Bertrand, whose own death from cancer in 2007 inspired the surgery that Jolie described in a May 14 New York Times op-ed.
According to her husband, Debbie Martin didn’t know she had the BRCA1 mutation until after her 2004 cancer diagnosis.
He says had his wife known in advance of her genetic risk, “she would have done exactly what Angelina did.”
Both Jolie and her brother James Haven had been in contact with their dying aunt in the last week to lend their support.
“Angelina has been sending her wishes,” Ron Martin told People. “She and my wife texted each other.
The widower vowed the family would stand by Jolie as she copes with her surgery — and faces the possibility of more surgery to have her ovaries removed.
“Because of the BRCA gene in the maternal side of the family, Angelina did the smartest thing on earth,” Ron Martin told People magazine. “It takes a lot of courage to have your breasts removed.”