By Macaela Mackenzie
“I look in the mirror and see my scars as strength.”
One New York woman is baring it all on Instagram for the most inspiring reason. After testing positive for the BRCA1 gene mutation, 24-year-old Paige More had a preventative double mastectomy—the results of which she’s sharing in a series of awesome photos.
More got the BRCA1 test since she had a family history of breast cancer—a BRCA1 gene mutation means you’re at a significantly higher risk for breast and ovarian cancer. Faced with the reality that she had a 55 to 65 percent chance of developing breast cancer, More was looking at a choice between a lifetime of monitoring, worrying, and checkups or a preventative double mastectomy to remove her breasts. She chose the latter.
In a bilateral mastectomy, both breasts and sometimes the nipples are removed, requiring intense mental and physical recovery.
I will never forget how excited I was to go back to see my doctors the week after my surgery to see if it was time to get my drains out. I was so hopeful because anyone who has had drains knows- THEY SUCK! (Literally!) My mom and I were rushing to get ready to get out the door and I remember asking her if she would snap a quick photo of me. I am so thankful that she did. I wanted to remember exactly how I looked and felt with these drains in. I never had drains before so it was so strange to me that the pain from my drains completely overshadowed and hurt much worse than the pain from where they removed my breasts. Oftentimes I wanted to rip the drains out because the pain and discomfort was so unbearable I didn’t think I could take it any longer (my doctors are glad that I didn’t!) Though I only had to have the drains in for a week, it felt like an eternity. I remember I woke up that day feeling like it was Christmas morning- today the drains were finally being removed! YASSSS!!! 🙌🏻🎁🎉
After the massive surgery, More set up her “previvor” Instagram account to document her recovery for her 13-year-old sister who has yet to be tested for the mutation, she told People. “While I was home recovering, I just didn’t want her to think that this is scary,” More said. “I wanted her to look at me and feel strong and proud and beautiful. I just hope that in a couple years when she gets tested, God forbid I hope she’s not positive, but if she is she can think back to this and say that I can do this too.”
There is no better feeling in the world then when you start to feel your body recovering and getting stronger. It took me about two weeks after my surgery. For me it means I am no longer confined to my couch or bed. It means I can get up and walk around and explore. It’s an amazing feeling when you start to feel yourself getting better. I still have to take it slowly, it’s so easy to overdo it which causes extreme pain and exhaustion. I’ve found that it’s best to pick one activity and then relax and heal for the rest of the day. So when my sister told me she knew of a bright pink wall up in Los Angeles I knew I had to make the trek out to see it. This was the activity I chose for the day and though it took a lot out of me, it was beyond worth it. The feeling I had when I saw this wall was overwhelming. The color pink has always been one of my favorites but joining the BRCA sisterhood it represents so much more to me now. Standing in front of this wall I felt strong. I felt powerful. I felt beautiful and feminine. I felt healthy and happy. I felt bright pink. But most importantly I felt thankful that I no longer have to worry about getting breast cancer! What an amazing feeling! 🙌🏻💕
More, a talent booker for Good Morning America, is creating a sisterhood of “breast friends,” bringing together previvors like herself and women who have been touched by the disease. Recently, More was invited to walk the runway at New York Fashion Week during the #Cancerland x AnaOno show, where all the bare-chested models were dealing with breast cancer in some way.
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Tonight I walked for my Previvors! My BRCA sisters. You are strong. You are beautiful. You are not alone. You don’t have to be scared. You can do this! We are in this together. I love you all and I am so thankful to have this amazing community of breast friends. Together we can do amazing things. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that I would be able to walk in NYFW only five weeks after my preventative double mastectomy. This is just the beginning! 💕
“I no longer wake up worried that this is going to be the day I get cancer, or the day I find a lump. I look in the mirror and see my scars as strength, and I see the new shape of myself,” More said. “I saved my own life. There’s nothing sexier than that.”
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthmag.com