Truth, for Samantha Paige, lives in the body, since hers taught her what she most needed to know about life and motherhood. Both a cancer survivor and the creator of the Last Cut Project, she’s encouraging big conversations around the significant decisions that bring us closer to a life that feels like our own.
“I believe truth is personal. It lives in the body,” Samantha explained. “We are all born with it. We just have to find our way back to it. It is your inner knowing and it’s different for us all.” What happens when you share your body, and ultimately your life, with your child? Ownership of this truth may feel further from your grasp than ever before.
Samantha believes, however, that we hold on to our authenticity not by imposing it onto our children, but by showing them how to find their own—a core belief carved out over years of physical trauma that challenged her truth long before she became a mother.
Diagnosed with thyroid cancer at 21, Samantha explained how “it came at such a crucial age of growing into my independence and my body.” She battled the physical and mental aftermath throughout her 20s before testing positive for the BRCA gene. “I had this history of, not hating my body, but I didn’t trust my body.”
Her mistrust lingered until she suffered late onset preeclampsia during childbirth, which, she said, was the turning point. While doctors urged her to get a c-section, she felt a vaginal birth was important. “There was a whisper in me. I pushed past this fear and something within me knew that we were going to get through this OK.” Her daughter was indeed delivered naturally 19 hours later.
“I shifted the inner conversation with myself and tapped into some mind-body connection to trust. I wanted to show up in my body, and show up for my daughter, and the belief that there was a power within all of us.” And this is the power—and the truth—she now models for her daughter.
“I wanted to put myself in the driver’s seat with my body,” Samantha added, which led her to opt for a double mastectomy (knowing she has the BRCA gene) and breast reconstruction within a year after her daughter’s birth. Eight years later, she decided to have explant surgery to remove the silicone implants that never felt like a true part of her body and “go flat.” This bold decision put a spotlight on body talk—and truth talk—between her and her daughter, which is perhaps the most important way that the Last Cut Project has held her to become a better parent.
“I see how younger individuals, who are still forming opinions about themselves, pay close attention to words, details and nuances around the body. So I now mindfully pay attention to how I speak about my own.” It doesn’t take much to trigger the negative attitudes that create barriers to authenticity. “Knowing I have a daughter who is forming in this realm and creating habits, I don’t stand in front of the mirror and say, “I look so fat.” Those words don’t even really pass through my mind, but they’re so ingrained by society to vocalize them.”
So how can we find a new language to navigate this all-important teaching role? “If you start by forcing yourself to say something positive, you can retrain and create new habits.” But this doesn’t mean sugar coating life, as a parent. “We tell each other the truth,” she added. “I show up for her in the same way that I do in my work. There aren’t double standards.” Yet there are boundaries.
“Parenthood will bring you to your knees over and over and over again. I look at my daughter as a very powerful human being. She stands on her own. She’s here to become who she’s going to be. I’m here to guide her. I’m not here to make her into who I want her to be.”
This speaks to the bigger question that challenges all parents—what is it that we really have control over? “Certainly not other human beings,” Samantha added, but owning up to this takes guts. “The best way I can affect change is to change my own habits, and hopefully I’m role-modeling behavior that will have a bigger impact. That’s how we teach personal responsibility.”
That’s how we show up for both ourselves and our children—we find our own truth, and love our own bodies, so they can find and love theirs.