The family of Angelina Jolie's late aunt Debbie Martin, who succumbed to breast cancer Sunday, is mourning her as "the glue that held the family together," less than two weeks after Jolie herself underwent a preventive double mastectomy.
The family of Debbie Martin spoke exclusively to NBC 7 San Diego and talked about the impact she had in her life — and likely the impact she will have in her death.
Debbie Martin had a long battle with cancer and was diagnosed in 2004. She died in Escondido, Calif. on Sunday morning after nearly 10 years battling the deadly disease.
“She was my best friend,” said her son Chris Martin. “The most beautiful woman I knew. I would talk to her every day.”
Debbie Martin, 61, was the younger sister of Jolie’s mother, whose own death from ovarian cancer in 2007 inspired the surgery Jolie had — a double mastectomy that reduced her chances of getting breast cancer from 87 to 5 percent.
“She was the glue that held the family together,” said Debbie’s husband Ron.
Ron said Debbie had the same defective BRCA one gene that Jolie had, but she didn't know it until after her cancer diagnosis in 2004. He encourages people who may have the gene to get screened, as it could be lifesaving.
“Since Angelina came out with her news about her double mastectomy, Debbie and I reflected that has we known before she got breast cancer if we had the same information from the BRCA test, which we didn't have at that time,” he said. “We would have done exactly the same thing. It would have saved her life.”