Angelina Jolie’s aunt has died of breast cancer less than two weeks after Jolie had a preventive double mastectomy to avoid the disease.
Debbie Martin died at age 61 on Sunday in a San Diego hospital.
Debbie 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 article.
“I can tell my children they don’t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer,” she wrote.
According to her husband Ron Martin, Debbie Martin had the same defective BRCA1 gene that Jolie does, but didn’t know it 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.”
“Angelina did the smartest thing on earth,” he told People.com. “It takes a lot of courage to have your breasts removed.”
Jolie and her brother had visited Mrs Martin several times, Mr Martin said.
“Angelina has been sending her wishes,” he said.
“She and my wife texted each other. It was difficult for my wife, during the last few months, to communicate.”