Paulette Leaphart is on a 1,000 mile topless walk from Biloxi, Mississippi to Washington, DC to change the face of breast cancer.
In 2014, Paulette was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer metastasizing behind her breast and spreading to her lymph nodes. She needed a double mastectomy immediately, but due to pre-existing health conditions, she was not a candidate for reconstructive surgery.
Following her surgery, Paulette underwent months of chemotherapy, and although the treatments left her family nearly bankrupt, they saved her life. But for Paulette, surviving cancer was just the beginning.
“Somebody’s gonna pay attention when they see a black lady walking down a highway across the country with no shirt on.”
On April 30th, after more than a year of physical training, the mother of eight started walking 1000 miles across the country bare-chested to inspire others with her story, provide empowering images of post-mastectomy bodies without reconstruction, and commemorate those who have lost their lives to the disease. Paulette’s plan is to finish the walk on her 50th birthday, celebrating that she made it to 50 when so many others haven’t.
“People need to see what breast cancer is, I don’t want to give them a pretty story wrapped up in a pretty pink bow about breast cancer, because that’s not what it is. This is breast cancer, this is it, across my chest, the scars, and that’s why I walk.”
Paulette’s journey is being chronicled in a documentary called Scar Story by filmmakers Emily MacKenzie and Sasha Solodukhina who are on the road with Paulette. “Breast cancer is not only a personal tragedy – it is a public health crisis,” explain the filmmakers. “Through the historical feat of walking topless to the steps of Congress, Paulette is demanding a radical change. By showing her scars, she inspires hundreds who had suffered all kinds of trauma to share their own scar stories.”