30 June 2016

A breast cancer survivor walks to Washington

From Biloxi, Mississippi.  Topless.
Paulette Leaphart left her hometown of Biloxi, Mississippi, on April 30, intent on walking to Washington, D.C. -- a journey of 1,034 miles -- and arriving by June 27, her 50th birthday, a milestone her doctors weren't always confident she would reach.

She strides with a sense of purpose, acknowledging that her body is forever changed. Leaphart was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer in January 2014. She underwent a double mastectomy and wears the scars as emblems of her struggle.

Accompanied by her youngest daughter, 8-year-old Madeline, Leaphart is traveling the entire route topless.

She wants to make sure Congress understands her experience and recognizes that her plight isn't unusual... 
Here's the crux:
"I trained for this. When I got sick, I had to sell my cars. That made me walk to the doctor," Leaphart says, the memory still vivid. "I'd walk the 5 miles there, recover for an hour or two, then walk the 5 miles back."

Cancer treatment had an effect on her mouth. Many of her teeth are now chipped or broken, her molars useless.

"I need to get my mouth fixed, but do you know how much they want? Ten thousand dollars," Leaphart says, the number spilling from her lips with acrimony.
And this:
A deputy of the Spotsylvania County Sheriff's Office eases out of his vehicle, parked along Jefferson Davis Highway in Virginia. He and another officer have come to talk to Leaphart about her decision to walk bare-chested...

The officer's initial concern stems from social norms based on gender -- the idea that she should be wearing a shirt because she is a woman. The officers respectfully but firmly
insist that she wear a shirt...

Leaphart no longer has nipples. That's why she is allowed to walk around shirtless. In most states, indecent exposure is defined as exposing the genitals (breasts and nether regions). She explains this to almost every officer she meets. While respectfully challenging the police's reasoning, she also confronts society's definition of what it means to be a woman.
She made it, and is scheduled to meet with some legislators.
She has found the purpose for her pain, and as she stands on the steps of the Capitol building on her birthday, she utters three words: "Thank you, God."
More details at ESPN.  Credit for both photos to Latria Graham.

AddendumCNN has a longread report on Paulette Leaphart, suggesting that there are some discrepancies in her history and that the story may not be as straightforward as it is portrayed.


  1. Bless her heart ~ sit up and take notice, D.C.!!

  2. Brave and strong person. If someone isn't tryign to be annoyingly provocative (male or female) I can't see how it would matter if they were wearing a shirt outdoors.
    A few years back during a pretty serious heatwave I was at our local dump dropping off the week's garbage and recycling and a person with no shirt on is dropping off her garbage as well and she was embarrassed and apologized to the few of us nearby for having no shirt on because it was just so hot, not one was bothered or offended the attendant and I talked to each other afterward and we just figured it would have been rude to mention/bring it up to her as we were all dealing with the same heat.

  3. The lengths people have to go to in the US to prove that health care is a human right!

  4. Yes, Stan B. Here in N.Z. if you get sick you go to hospital and they fix you (if possible) I have heart disease (thanks, dad !) and last year had 4 stents placed inside the arteries that feed my heart, they seem to be failing (which was an accepted risk taken at the time) so I may need a triple bypass operation soon. As this would not be urgent I would be placed on a waiting list and would expect to have it done within 2 months of the decision being made to do it (it is not a given yet) It is all free ! That's free as in I, and all the other New Zealanders, have already paid for it with our taxes, over the years. Why the U.S.A. does not have a similar health plan is beyond the thinking of this writer.
    Also beyond me is the law the U.S.A. has that says breasts are indecent ! That means that nearly every baby born there gets exposed to pornographic material from birth through to weaning, which can be 4 or more years in some cases (mine was just on 2 years).
    I think a walk away from what is and a good look at what should be, is called for.
    But I guess people that search for common sense don't get to make the laws.

  5. Ha, my post say's it was made on the first of July !
    It is already the 2nd here in New Zealand.
    C'mon, catch up if you can ! (applies to the date, health care and breasts)

  6. I wish we could catch up on medical care!

  7. As a survivor of multiple surgeries and treatment for melanoma, I have to wonder why any person who has been through a cancer experience would be shirtless and hatless when the sun is out. Does the little girl have sunscreeen on? Estimates are that 10,000+ people will die of melanoma in 2016. It is the 7th most common form of cancer for women (5th for men).

    Melanoma is no joke. Male or female, breasts or no breasts, put on a shirt and a wide brimmed hat.

  8. I saw this on CNN today... it was an interesting follow-up to this story that I first learned about on TYWKIWDBI...


    Her story's sad, but seemingly not in the ways we've been lead to believe.

    1. Thank you, Leprae, for the link. I had not seen the followup story. I've added the link to the body of the post.


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