When Paige More flew home to Los Angeles after her double mastectomy in January, the 24-year-old Good Morning America talent booker was still processing what her future would look like. Despite being young and cancer free, More had preventative surgery to eliminate her risk of breast cancer altogether. Just two years prior, she was diagnosed with a gene mutation that significantly increased her risk for breast and ovarian cancersBRCA1.
More is one of every 500 women in the United States who have inherited the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation from at least one of their parentsMore got hers from her dad because, yes, men can inherit the mutation, too. Nationally, about 12 percent of women will develop breast cancer and 1.3 percent of women will develop ovarian cancer during their lives, but the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations multiply that risk significantly.
By recent estimates, 55 to 65 percent of women who inherit the BRCA1 mutation and 45 percent who inherit the BRCA2will develop breast cancer by age 70. Additionally, 39 percent of women who inherit the BRCA1 mutation and 11 to 17 percent who inherit the BRCA2 mutation will develop ovarian cancer by 70, too.
But despite being one of hundreds of thousands with this genetic mutation, More had trouble seeking guidance about what having the surgery would mean. Internet searches for the procedure and recovery process lacked gravelyshe wanted to know what other women experienced and felt, so she too could know what to expect. But web results were clinical and intimidating, offering worst case scenarios that made her feel scared and alone.
It was while spending time with her 13-year-old sister Camryn that she realized she wanted to be abeacon for her sibling, someone who could tell her what the process is like in case she had to go through it as well. So she created Paige Previvor, an Instagram account dedicated to her personal journey post-mastectomies, in which More became the example she was looking for, helping thousands of other women face their own BRCA diagnoses and recoveries.
When I was going through this, I didnt have anyone to look toward I wanted to see anyone I could relate to, and there was nobody, More told the Daily Dot. I didnt want my little sister to have to feel like that if she goes through thisI hope she doesnt, but if she doesI wanted her to remember, My sister went through this and she was OK. She was still Paige.
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!
With just shy of 15,000 followers, the Paige Previvor Instagram account acts as ajournal for Mores most intimate moments as a previvor, a survivor of a predisposition to breast cancer. Mores posts follow her surgery, like the “Hookem Horns” sign she flashed after leaving the operating room (a shoutout to her alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin) as well as the silly, hopeful, and painful moments from her recovery.
In one photo, the image that sparked her idea for the account, More poses shirtless in front of the famous pink Paul Smith Limited wall in L.A., rocking her leather jacket and aviators, her bandages covering her chest and her fresh mastectomy scars proudly on display. More had initially been reluctant to get in front of the camerawithout her breasts, she wasnt sure shed feel confident in her skin ever again. But not wanting her own insecuritiesto get in the way of her sisters fun, she left the house, bandages in tow.
When they arrived at the pink wall, in front of a handful of strangers trying to get their own shots, something clicked. So she took off her shirt, slipped her jacket back on, and posed.
I never intended to take my shirt off, I just had this overwhelming feeling likeI just felt like me, and I just felt beautiful like, You know what, Im proud of these scars, I think my scars are sexy, and I dont need to hide them under my shirt, and I dont need to be embarrassed of them, More said.
More shares a lot of moments like this: snaps of her looking like a badass posing in front of a mural, or making a goofy expression before a doctor inserts a large syringe for her implant reconstruction, or recording herself tossing her chicken cutlets and padded bras behind her, declaring her bralessness like a badge of honor. Its encouraging to see someone having undergone a double mastectomy at such an early age remain positive about these dramatic changes in her life.
Back in the city that never sleeps… which is fitting because I feel like I can never sleep these days!! You know when you feel tired but can't seem to pass out? Maybe it's because it's hard to find a comfortable position (I'm a stomach sleeper!) but I can't seem to get more than a few hours at a time. Suggestions welcome!
#selflovesunday Say it with me ladies… our scars are sexy! I am learning to love and accept my new body more and more every single day. Self love is so important. Take a minute to look in the mirror and really appreciate how strong and beautiful your body is. Embrace your scars. Embrace your foobs with their indents and ridges. Our imperfections make us beautiful and unique, so just own them!
After posting that last video I took Bo$$y for a walk along the Hudson. It really helped me relax and unwind. Listening to the water and seeing the beautiful sky behind the massive buildings helped me take a few steps back. I took in big deep breathes. I remembered how happy I am that I decided to have this surgery. I felt thankful that I was able to prevent getting breast cancer with this decision. I thought about the amazing people I have in my life, some from before and some from after. I thought of all the life I have ahead of me filled with love and laughter. Sadness doesn't just disappear with a nice walk along the water- that's not what I'm saying. But moving your body and letting go of some of your pent up emotions truly helps free you and helps you feel a bit lighter. Together we can do anything. I'm so lucky to have you all ?
But Mores feed doesnt glamorize the pain of facing breast cancer in your early 20s. She avoids playing into the harshest critiques of social mediahow we share our best moments in an effort to make our lives appear more stable than they actually areby also posting some of her darkest times. She invites her followers to witness pangs of genuine vulnerability and fear that anyone else would share sarcastically on their fake Insta with the caption EVERYTHING IS FINE, IM FINE, REALLY, or keep hidden altogether.
Sometimes you just have to fake it till you feel it. I have been amazed how confident and beautiful I have felt throughout this process. I think my scars are sexy. I feel extremely fortunate that I have been happy with my results so far. When I hadn't been filled yet, I loved how cute my small foobs looked. But the more and more I expand, the weirder they start to look. This was the first time I looked in the mirror and absolutely hated what I saw. Being surrounded by all of my friends who look amazing in their bikinis with their real boobs made me feel sad and insecure. This was the first time I missed my boobs. Once I understood what having the BRCA gene mutation meant, I instantly rejected my breasts. They were no longer mine and I wanted nothing to do with them. But when I put on my favorite bikini and looked in the mirror I missed my old boobs. I cried and mourned them. I almost decided not to go to the pool with my friends and opted to stay in the room all day. But that's lame and that's not who I am. I am never going to let BRCA keep me from doing things that make me happy or being with people that I love. So I went downstairs but kept my sweatshirt on (in my defense, it was drizzling!) I sat at the pool in my sweatshirt and sunglasses and tried to hide my tears and fears. After 30 minutes or so I realized how ridiculous this was. I was the only person at the pool wearing a sweatshirt. By doing that I was bringing more attention to myself. So I marched back to the room, ripped off my sweatshirt, recorded this video and then went downstairs in my bikini. I still felt insecure, unattractive, deformed and uncomfortable. But I pushed those feelings aside, help my held up high and told myself that I was beautiful, strong and healthy. And guess what? It worked! I ended up having an amazing day with the girls. I realized hat life isn't about always feeling your best. Sometimes when you are feeling down you just have to fake it so you don't miss out on fun times with your friends at the pool ?? Have any of y'all had a similar moment? Where you felt insecure about how you looked? How did you handle it?
(Boob size) goin up on a Tuesday! First fill really wasn't bad. As you can see, I was joking and smiling the entire time! I have a lot of feeling in my chest still so I could feel a slight prick but it wasn't nearly as bad as I expected! Honestly having my doctor clean off the iodine (the weird colored spots where they insert the GIANT needle) hurt more than anything else. They only filled me with 60 cc so it wouldn't be too much for my first time. Feeling a little bit top-heavier and my back is tight but really no complaints! I appreciate all of the love and support from my breast friends Ready to take on the day with my slightly bigger foobies!!
Why are there sooo many implant options?! I understand every body is different blah blah blah but for someone who doesn't even like to pick a restaurant for dinner this is overwhelming! I love and appreciate all of you for giving me so much insight and advice. It's so confusing though! One breastie says she hates the gummybears (still can't believe that's not candy) and another breastie says she loves them! So I figured I'd take a look at the implants and maybe that would help me decide. Umm no… there are sooo many! This isn't even half, I just couldn't hold anymore than this. Luckily it turns out I actually have one more fill left so looks like I have some time to decide. Speaking of, this last fill was probably one of the hardest. I feel like I have two boulders on my chest! Woke up this morning feeling very tight and uncomfortable. So ready for this phase to be over with!!
In the post directly following her pink-walled power pose, More is crying. Shes sobbing, gulping in air between swipes at her face with the back of her hand.
Do you feel like you have to be strong? Mores mom asks from behind the camera.
Yeah, I think I always feel like I have to be strong, she replies with a cracked voice.
I think I always feel like have to be strong for everyone, for our family, for our friends, for myself. I dont not want to be. I want to be strong, and I feel strong, and I feel happy, she continues, composing herself between breaths. But then the sobs hit her again, But do think sometimes its still just scary, you know?
During most of my journey I have felt like I needed to be strong. That I couldn't be afraid. You don't want your friends or family to worry. You don't want to worry. So you put on a brave face. I'm sure so many of you have done the same. But it's ok to be scared sometimes. It's ok to cry. Letting it out makes you feel so much better- trust me! If any of you start to feel scared or alone please reach out! You are never alone, we are in this together ???
In another video, More talks through tears as she tells her followers about her depression, something she hadnt faced before her surgery. Shes seeking professional help and following tips from her breast friends in her Instagram commentspeople who have been affected by breast cancer to some extent, whether it’s facing a BRCA mutation diagnosis themselves, or having family or friends combating breast cancer.
Depression. Similar to anxiety it's a feeling that is very new for me. These highs and lows have really been throwing me for a loop. Depression is one of the weirdest feelings to cope with. It's 2 pm and I am feeling sad for no reason. I am feeling this overwhelming lack of self worth. And though I don't think that of myself, I can't control that feeling. It's scary. I can tell myself, "you know your worth," and I can believe that. But when you feel it and don't think it, it's hard to control. I don't understand where it comes from or why I'm feeling so down on myself. But for some reason I just got this powerful feeling of sadness. It's hard to explain. I'm not sad but I feel sad. I'm going to listen to some of the amazing advice I've been given. I'm taking deep breathes and going on a long walk along the water right now. I'm also looking into speaking with a professional to talk about these new feelings and I am attending my first FORCE get together tonight. These things are reminders that though I can't control my feelings I can control the steps I take to deal with them. Thank you again for the love and support
Sometimes you just have to laugh at the moments when someone catches you struggling with opening a heavy a** door at work! Use your legs ladies!! These are the day to day reminders that my body is still healing and recovering. Rather than getting frustrated, it helps to just laugh… and ask for some help! I have always been extremely independent so having to ask someone to help me do simple things, like open a door, can be off-putting at first. But I'm learning that asking for help makes your life easier and also makes people feel good that they can help you! Just remember to always say thank you!!
For More, talking her followers through what she faces has helped her better process these emotions without feeling too dependent on the people closest to her.
I dont have to pick up a phone or send a text and say, Im having a hard time. I can just let myself go through it and myself or write it out and share it I feel like I dont want to be a burden to anybody, so kind of helps me put it out there, More said. Sometimes Ill go back to some of my earlier posts and I cant even believe I wrote thatI forgot that thats how I felt at this time, and its helpful to see how far Ive come.
These posts, where More shares her doubts with her audience, are what makes her account so essential to women with the BRCA gene mutationshes helped generate a community for people who didnt know what to expect, and who are scared of the idea that theyll have to undergo a surgery to remove their breast tissue, let alone a second surgery to avoid ovarian cancer.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 25,” one woman commented on a photo of More right before her surgery. “I know the pain of a double mastectomy! This picture reminds me so much of myself, smiling the whole way but so afraid on the inside. Hope your recovery goes well.
It really is a crazy feeling to go from feeling like youre alone and theres no one who understands, to now having hundreds or thousands of people who are saying, I totally get it, More said. Its a beautiful and crazy andI dont even have the words for it.
For some women, Mores story is more than a support system, but a literal life saver. Recently, a breast friend of hers who is diagnosed with the mutation decided to visit her doctor. Like More, shes young, but her anxiety of having the double mastectomy made her avoid facing her diagnosisafter all, she had time to get it done. But Mores platform, along with the other women she had met through More, had given her the confidence to touch base with her physician. The doctor ended up telling her she didnt have much time at alland needed to have the surgery within the next year.
She was just in shock, More said. Shes doing her surgery this summer. So to hear someone say, You saved my life, I dont even know how to accept that.
Though Paige Previvior is less than three months old, its already taken More to walk the runway at New York Fashion Week for AnaOno, a company that designs lingerie and loungewear for people who have been affected by breast cancer, to hosting weekly breast friends meetups in New York for women affected by breast cancer, to being featured on People.com, and even on her own show, Good Morning America.
As for Mores sister, Camryn, she has another five years before she can get tested, and she is planning to wait until she graduates from college to do so. But Camryn has told More shes ready to face the experience should she test positive for the geneall because of the community of women her big sister helped cultivate.
Shes , Im ready because of you, and that really just likeIm going to cry thinking about it, it just makes me so happy, More said, her voice breaking once more. I was on the Cosmopolitan Snapchat story, and so she and was like, Youre so cool! I just like, Yes! Thats all I ever want is for my sister to think that Im strong, and I want to be the best role model for her.