“I’m going to walk 1,000 miles to the White House, bare-chested.”
Breast cancer survivor Paulette Leaphart is taking a walk. A looong walk. 1,000 miles to the White House, topless, in order to make a statement to Congress — as well as to the rest of the world — about healthcare accessibility, scars, and shame. With her are two filmmakers who are documenting her journey. Producer Sasha Solodukhina and Director Emily Mackenzie are turning her journey into a documentary called Scar Story. Leaphart plans to go the whole way proudly baring her double mastectomy scars to make a powerful assertion about body acceptance and the strength of those who fight this disease.
In an interview with The Huffington Post, Leaphart stated that she believed “no one should go to the doctor, and because they don’t have a $150 co-pay, be turned away.” She decided that she wanted to make a statement about the accessibility of healthcare to individuals in low-income areas. Cancer treatment is extremely expensive, and often, those who are uninsured or cannot afford the necessary drugs and therapies are unable to get the lifesaving healthcare they need.
An article on Leaphart in The New York Times points out that a significant portion of money raised for cancer research goes to pharmaceutical companies, so that they can advance their cancer treatment drugs; however, “the high cost of development can also make them prohibitive for individuals from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.” Leaphart’s journey to Congress is her way of saying enough is enough! Cancer should not be considered a death sentence just because someone happens to fall into a lower tax bracket.
Paulette Leaphart also hopes to make a statement about body acceptance and representation. She found the initial news that she would have to have a double-mastectomy particularly traumatic. Solodukhina notes that Leaphart “had so much trouble finding representation.” In a society which places so much emphasis on the importance of having a conventionally attractive female body, the loss of breasts, which are often seen as a necessity for female beauty, is extremely devastating.
Leaphart hopes to critique this standard in her bare-chested walk. She wants people see her scars, and know that she is not ashamed of them (Yassss body acceptance!). And, perhaps most importantly, what she wants to convey is that these scars mean that she is a survivor. Both of the filmmakers and Leaphart discuss the branding and marketing associated with breast cancer. The overwhelming use of pink ribbons and “advertising” is known as “pinkwashing.” Pinkwashing drowns out the voices and experiences of breast cancer survivors, and can undermine the challenges and struggles of those facing such a harsh illness.
Leaphart sums it up well when she stated “I don’t want to give them a pretty story wrapped up in a pretty pink bow, because that’s not what it is.” Through her walk, Paulette Leaphart draws attention to the harsh realities of breast cancer and gives the country a wake-up call it so desperately needs, whether that be about treatment accessibility, body shaming, or capitalization off of an illness.
Images Via YouTube
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