At age 21, right before my last year of university, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and underwent a thyroidectomy and two rounds of radiation. Cancer came out of the blue, and while physically I healed quickly, the emotional impact took a toll for longer. Because of my cancer and my mom’s bout with breast cancer in her early ’30’s, my doctor recommended the BRCA genetic testing.
I tested positive for BRCA1 in my late twenties. Those results came during a period when I was unravelling the emotional trauma and PTSD from thyroid cancer. While I was at first overwhelmed by the BRCA1 mutation diagnosis, I realized, in time, that this information provided the knowledge that offered me personal power to create some semblance of control in my own health story.
I knew I wanted to have a child before deciding upon any preventive surgery or other action. So, for a few years, I went for regular mammograms and MRI’s to stay on top of the screenings.
After my daughter was born in 2007, I felt more inspired and motivated than ever to be healthy, physically and emotionally, for myself and my child.
Before she was one year old, I underwent a preventive double mastectomy and reconstruction. At the time, the information presented about reconstruction was heavily biased around silicone implants as the “go to” action after mastectomy.
I had a whisper within me that this might not be the right choice for me, but for many reasons, I did not listen. I lived with the implants for 8 years, but never felt at home in my body. I detached from my chest and felt quite unwell at times.
During that period, I began to make a lot of other changes in my life, and finally, in 2016, arrived at the moment when I knew it was time to have the implants removed. When I decided to explant, I created Last Cut Project, a multi-media documentary that speaks to these last cut moments in which significant decisions are made to line up our internal and external worlds.
My explant surgery was one of the most empowering moments of my life, as my flat chest reflects who I am and how I want to feel in this body. I now feel healthier and happier than ever before and believe firmly that our choices around our bodies are distinctly personal and unique.
My wish for anyone facing these decisions is full, unbiased information that allows for an informed, empowered choice that reflects one’s distinct self. I have no regrets about the way my story was written, but do hope that my experience inspires others to ask questions, listen honestly to the answers and act according to this inner knowing.
Samantha Paige is the creator of Last Cut Project and the Last Cut Conversations podcast. She writes, speaks and teaches about personal truth and the decisions we make to lead healthier, happier, freer lives. Samantha will soon be releasing her first book, LAST CUT, which speaks to her own personal health journey and the 7 universal steps of making a last cut. She lives with her daughter in Los Angeles, California.