In an emotional new essay for Time magazine, the "Maleficent: Mistress of Evil" star candidly recalled the pain of watching her beloved mother, Marcheline Bertrand, and other women in her family, die of the disease.
"I remember once holding my mother’s hand, as she was receiving chemotherapy, when she started to turn purple and I had to race to get the nurse," Jolie, 44, wrote. "Now there are new ways to identify which chemotherapy medication is best for each patient, resulting in fewer of the horrible side effects. Fewer. It’s often still so hard on the body."
Bertrand battled breast cancer and ovarian cancer for nearly a decade. She died in 2007 at age 56. Jolie also lost her aunt and her grandmother to breast cancer.
"As I stood in the hallway of the hospital waiting for my mother’s body to be collected and taken to be cremated, her doctor told me she had promised my mother that she would make sure I was informed about my medical options," Jolie recalled.
"Years later, I was able to have a genetic test that revealed I carried a gene, the so-called BRCA1, that predisposes me to cancer. The test came too late for the other women in my family," she wrote.
Jolie revealed in 2013 that she'd undergone a preventative double mastectomy to reduce her chances of developing breast cancer. Two years later, the Oscar winner opted to have her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed.
"I’m often asked how my medical choices, and being public about them, have affected me. I simply feel I made choices to improve my odds of being here to see my children grow into adults, and of meeting my grandchildren," she explained.
Jolie has six kids with ex-husband Brad Pitt: Maddox, 18, Pax, 15, Zahara, 14, Shiloh, 13, and 11-year-old twins Knox and Vivienne.
"I have lived over a decade now without a mom. She met only a few of her grandchildren and was often too sick to play with them," Jolie shared, adding, "My mother fought the disease for a decade and made it into her 50s. My grandmother died in her 40s. I’m hoping my choices allow me to live a bit longer," she added.
As for the scars from her double mastectomy, the actresssaid they serve as a reminder.
"I think our scars remind us of what we have overcome," she wrote. "They are part of what makes each of us unique. That diversity is one of the things that is most beautiful about human existence."