Brad Pitt is counting his blessings. After fiancée Angelina Jolie shocked fans with news of her double mastectomy, Brad opened up to USA TODAY about the surgery that made them stronger. “I’m quite emotional about it, of course,” said the 49-year-old actor.
“She could have stayed absolutely private about it and I don’t think anyone would have been none the wiser with such good results,” Brad added.
“But it was really important to her to share the story and that others would understand it doesn’t have to be a scary thing,” he continued. “In fact, it can be an empowering thing, and something that makes you stronger and us stronger.”
Although Angelina kept under the radar during the February-through-April period that she underwent the procedures, Brad points out that she kept important commitments in the Congo, in London for a G-8 Foreign Ministers Conference, and in NYC to honor a young Pakistani hero.
“This was during Stage 2 (when the double mastectomy was performed),” he revealed. “Literally it was just weeks after she’d had truly major surgery.”
Brad said their six kids – Maddox, 11, Pax, 9, Zahara, 8, Shiloh, nearly 7, and 4-year-old twins Knox and Vivienne – were involved in mom’s healing process.
“We set up our own little post-op recovery that became pretty fun,” he said. “You make an adventure out of it.”
Within her op-ed, Angelina acknowledged her “loving and supportive” family. “We managed to find moments to laugh together,” she wrote. “We knew this was the right thing to do for our family and that it would bring us closer. And it has.”
“It’s been an emotional and beautifully inspiring few months,” Brad continued. “It’s such a wonderful relief to come through this and not have a spectre hanging over our heads. To know that that’s not going to be something that’s going to affect us. My most proudest thing is our family. This isn’t going to get that.”
The high-profile couple been focused on maintaining a sense of routine for their kids – keeping up family traditions such as a Valentine’s Day gift exchange and an Easter egg hunt while Angelina was undergoing treatment, a source tells PEOPLE.
In the weeks surrounding the surgeries, “life was normal” for the children.
Adds a family insider: “Her kids always come first to her.”