Angelina_Jolie_Cannes_2011Not that we needed more reasons to admire Angelina Jolie, but today’s is a doozy: She wrote a beautiful, revelatory essay in The New York Times about her decision to get a preventive double mastectomy. Jolie continues to show nothing short of genius for leveraging the tabloid press’ obsession with her—as one of the world’s most beautiful women, as a super-famous person married to a super-famous person under super-famous circumstances—for nothing but good. She’s drawn attention to countless good causes and to overseas crises no one wants to deal with. And now she’s sharing her very personal story to help other women.

In the piece, she walks us through the entire procedure, first telling us about her decision: Her mother died of breast cancer quite young (at 56), and the 37-year-old Jolie found out that she has the faulty gene that often causes the disease. So now, at 37, she decided to have her breasts removed, an intense surgery, but one that brought her risk down from 87 percent to 5 percent. She doesn’t hold back on the gory details of the treatment, but her description demystifies it for anyone considering it: “The operation can take eight hours. You wake up with drain tubes and expanders in your breasts. It does feel like a scene out of a science-fiction film.” But she also reassures women that she got through it and that her life is back to normal now. She also talks about the importance of having a supportive partner, a key to taking the break from life that’s necessary and to recovering.

She notes that she had the standard breast reconstruction post-surgery, which would have allowed her to undergo this entire procedure without going public about it. But she chose to share it, in the classiest way possible. She even includes what we all really want to know: “On a personal note, I do not feel any less of a woman. I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity.” Her story, however, only increases her humanity—and her bravery.