PHOTOGRAPHERImages Courtesy of Press

What is society’s obsession with boobs? They’re just pockets of fat, yet somehow, boobs have become synonymous with femininity. But to Samantha Paige, femininity is a feeling. After being diagnosed with BRCA1 and electing for a preventative double mastectomy, Samantha decided to forgo her implants and embrace a boob-free life.

 

“I wish I had known there are many different ways of approaching our wellness,” Samantha Paige says. “I fully support western medicine when it’s needed, but the journey I’ve been on towards empowering myself, knowing my abilities for myself, and taking care of myself has been the greatest gift of this longer journey.”

For Samantha, her “longer journey” has been a 20-year course of thyroid cancer, BRCA1 positivity, a double mastectomy, and ultimately her empowering choice to remove her implants and embrace her body sans-boobs.

“I believe feminity is a feeling,” Samantha continues. “For me, what constitutes that is stepping outside of the box of what society constitutes as femininity or masculinity. I prefer to focus on feeling good in my body, feeling proud of my body, and feeling whole in my body. That is when I feel the most vibrant, exuberant and connected to the part of myself that I want to bring out to the world.”

When Samantha had her elective double mastectomy, she opted for a reconstruction procedure as well, “because that was the option that was presented to me that quote unquote made most women feel most normal and most happy.” However, eight years and many life changes later, she realized that the implants just weren’t right for her. “I wanted to explore other options,” she tells. “A good friend of mine mentioned that she had her implants removed, so it sparked a lightning bolt moment that I wanted to feel better and also wanted to feel more like myself. That’s when I made the decision to go flat.”

While a number of factors influenced Samantha’s decision, a lot of it had to do with how she was feeling in terms of wellness. She shares that just wasn’t feeling right—she changed how she took care of herself, how she ate, how she exercised, but still was just not feeling very well. Eventually, Samantha was diagnosed with MRSA and it led her to take a new approach to taking care of her body. “My intuition for myself was that I had a foreign body in my body and I’m incredibly sensitive, and so it became clear to me that I wanted to do whatever I could do for myself to have my body, my temple be clean,” she explains.

Despite this, Samantha doesn’t speak out against implants. The implants didn’t work for her, and that was her own experience. She never wants to come across as seeming like she believes her experience is the only way.

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“As it related to body image, I don’t think I ever fully identified with that feeling that the implants could become part of my body,” she says. “They were not comfortable, I didn’t sleep well, so once it became in was in my consciousness that perhaps removing that foreign body would improve my health, I didn’t have a strong attachment to those that being part of my identity. My identity was definitely defined by a much broader range of things about myself, both physically and internally.”

Samantha has shared her story through Last Cut (@lastcut), a documentary project that shows the big life decisions, last cuts as she calls them, and how these decisions bring us closer to living a life that feels like our own. She started the project within days of her implant removal surgery, initially as a record of her healing process, but it has grown into a multi-media narrative of the “last cuts” in everyone’s lives.

There’s beauty in sharing them and showing the vulnerability of talking our truths” she says. 

“I have been reminded time and time again of the power to use our voice and having the courage to share, to reach out, ask for help, and ask for an ear when we’re going through something. I’ve been so surprised and in awe of not only my ability to change and to learn but those around me; and Last Cut has offered an incredible medium for a conversation, many conversations that need to be had.”

Samantha shares that she is an advocate for getting information about what is happening in our lives and taking the time to reflect. That being said, she doesn’t believe anyone should look into determining whether they have the BRCA mutation without being “very clear and ready to have that land in their atmosphere.”

The BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutations affects one in 400 people, and cause a higher predisposition to breast cancer. It is hereditary and can be diagnosed by genetic testing.

“It’s not like finding out your blood type, or finding out you’re allergic to something. This is a massive piece of information to grapple with.”

As BRCA is a genetic mutation, it is not curable, but treatment options include surgery or increased screenings. As Samantha has shared, each journey is a personal experience, and in sharing her own experiences, she isn’t advocating one way or another.

She tells, “What I’ve learned on my health journey is we all have an incredible power to take care of ourselves and what works best for our bodies, and I don’t think that is always surgery. I’ve learned and reflected a lot on my decision. Regarding my identity, I feel great in my body. I feel whole. I feel like this is the way my body should look and feel.”

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