Cancer Survivor Proudly Bares Mastectomy Scars in Powerful Equinox Campaign

Samantha Paige posed topless for an Equinox campaign after undergoing a double mastectomy

Samantha Paige had already been diagnosed with thyroid cancer when she tested positive for the BRCA 1 gene mutation, which meant she was susceptible to various female-specific cancers.

“When my daughter was seven months old, my determination to be healthy for my baby was so strong that I decided it was the right time to preemptively have the double mastectomy,” Paige, 41, tells PEOPLE. “I didn’t want to keep going for MRIs and mammograms every three to six months — it was too unnerving and the risk seemed too great.”

Even though she knew it could be the best decision for her health, choosing to undergo the surgery was “scary.”

“It’s a huge surgery and a painful one, but for me [making that decision] was also a moment of empowerment and committing to something, which was to be in control of my own wellness,” says the Santa Barbara, California-based artist. “As a new mother, it felt very powerful to make the decision to not be waiting for a diagnosis, but to sort of flip that on its head.”

After undergoing the double mastectomy, Paige decided to undergo reconstructive surgery.

“The implants were presented as, ‘This is how most women feel happier and more normal,'” she says. “When I got the implants, I was in a very different mindset.”

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In fact, Paige says the implants never felt quite right and believes they may have been responsible for a staph infection she couldn’t get rid of for months. After speaking with a friend who told her about the link between silicone implants and certain health problems, she decided to get her implants removed.

“I wanted to feel healthy, and I knew for me it was the right decision,” she says. “I felt better immediately.”

Paige jumped at the chance to be a part of Equinox’s 2017 “Commit to Something” campaign because it resonated with her own personal mission.

“When I had the implants out, I realized that we all know what matters most to us, and the next step is the action we take to stand up for those ideals and those beliefs and those values,” she says. “Equinox’s message of ‘Commit to Something’ is about being able to look at yourself in the mirror and realize who you are and stand up to those values. It just dovetails with what I believe in.”

Paige hopes to inspire others through the campaign image by showing her self-confidence — scars and all.

“I hope people will look at the image and walk away saying, ‘Wow, that’s incredible that that woman feels so comfortable in her own skin,'” she says. “After coming to this place of loving my body and every scar, my goal is to influence, first of all, how my daughter feels about her body as a growing woman, and if it can influence another person to do the same, I feel as if I have done something beautiful.”

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