A Breast Cancer Survivor is Walking Topless to the White House to Raise Awareness (Video)

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Awareness of breast cancer may be at an all-time high, at least in the United States. Organizations like the Susan G. Komen for the Cure have made the ubiquitous pink ribbon the de-facto symbol for the disease, while celebrities like Angelina Jolie and Christina Applegate have taken very public preventative measures in the form of mastectomies to fight against a likely diagnosis. However, despite all of the measures to educate women and men about breast health and preventive forms of care, breast cancer is still a leading cause of illness and death for American women. According to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, an astounding one out of eight women will develop the disease in her lifetime, while 2016 is on par to see nearly a quarter of a million new diagnoses before the year is up. Such disparity between the vast amounts of people who are aware of the disease and the amount of women who develop it regardless is a frustrating symptom of the disease’s invasiveness – but that hasn’t curtailed the efforts of women everywhere from sharing their personal struggles loudly and proudly. Enter: Paulette Leaphart.

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A mother of eight from Mississippi, Ms. Leaphart opted for a double mastectomy – the surgical removal of both breasts – after receiving a breast-cancer diagnosis when she was 47. Not only has she admirably fought back against a potentially fatal illness, but she is also being applauded for her decision to walk 1,000 miles to Washington, D.C. from her homestate in an effort to address Congress and demand more funding for educational and treatment-based initiatives. What makers her walk particularly powerful is her decision to do it topless, allowing the world to see the scars left behind after the surgery which likely saved her life. In fact, she is now the subject of a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for a film tracing her progress and telling her story. Scar Story is being brought to life thanks to the more than $30,000 pledged by backers thus far, and if Leaphart’s compelling words are any indication, the movie is likely to be one of the most poignant, in-your-face depictions of what breast cancer really looks like.

“I don’t want to give them a pretty story wrapped up in a pretty pink bow about breast cancer, ’cause that’s not what it is,” she says. “We have scars for a reason. They’re our story of survival. Scars let us know that ‘hey, yes I had cancer, and I kicked its ass.'”

Leaphart will walk from Biloxi, Mississippi to D.C. this summer. Heads may recognize her from Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” film.