In 2014, Paulette Leaphart had fulfilled her promise to God by adopting a child for every child she had biologically so she could show them the love that they never had. As a mother of eight, she was living a comfortable life.
But one night, Paulette woke up from a dream – a message from God telling her she had cancer. Her oldest son tried to comfort her – they had recently lost several female family members in succession to breast cancer. He insisted, it was just a bad dream, but Paulette rushed to make a doctor’s appointment. Finding nothing in a routine exam, the doctor suggested they check back in six months. “I’ll be dead in six months,” she said. Reluctantly, the doctor performed further tests, and to his surprise, she was right – Paulette had an aggressive form of breast cancer metastasizing behind her breast and spreading to her lymph nodes. She needed a double mastectomy immediately with no option for reconstructive surgery.
“What is a woman without breasts?” she asked herself. Paulette was left with a choice – life, or holding on to the very things that were trying to kill her.
After her double mastectomy, Paulette underwent months of vigorous and expensive chemotherapy. Although the treatments left the family on the brink of going broke, they ultimately saved her life. For her, surviving cancer was not enough. She felt that if other people could see her scars and hear her story, she could help them.
Her teenage daughter posted a photo of Paulette’s scars on Facebook, and it went viral. Immediately, she was inundated with messages of support and gratitude from cancer survivors and their family members. By exposing herself and speaking out bravely, she broke the shameful silence and empowered other women to get the same life-saving procedure. By showing her scars, Paulette inspires hundreds who had suffered all kinds of trauma to share their own scar stories.
But that wasn’t enough for Leaphart, she embarked on a new mission, – walking 1000 miles across the country bare-chested to share her story, commemorate those who lost their lives, and to show what the disease really looks like. By walking across the country baring her scars for all to see, Paulette set out to remind us that we all have scars, and we should not be ashamed of them. There’s is a short film detailing her story here.
On June 27, Leaphart’s 50th birthday, she successfully finished her 60-day, 1,034-mile journey in Capitol Hill.
And because of her journey, she was even asked by Beyonce’ to appear in the Freedom portion of Beyonce’s visual album, Lemonade (see photo below).
“They found the tumor in my right breasts. But the doctor recommended that they take both my breasts. I wasn’t…