Paulette Leaphart, who had a double mastectomy in 2014, started her epic journey from Mississippi on Sunday and hopes to reach Washington DC by June 27.
She is doing the walk topless to raise awareness around breast cancer and remove the stigma around mastectomy scars.
Leaphart, 49, is documenting her journey in a video called ‘Scary Story’ and she has asked Beyoncé to join her for a block. The singer agreed – but proposed walking a mile instead. She is already being accompanied by her four youngest daughters, aged between eight and 15, as well as filmmaker Emily MacKenzie.
She plans to start a foundation supporting single mothers who face illness, and has already raised more than £1,000 on GoFundMe.
On it she writes: “I will walk to support all those who are unable to physically participate in walks themselves. I will walk for my 4 lil’ cousins who lost their mum to cancer at the young tender age of 32.”
“To show my empathy and compassion for all those who have lost a loved one to this disease. I will walk 1,000 miles for the women who have lost everything in the process of going through treatment. For the common bond that all fighters share.”
“I will walk across the country topless, for myself and for others! I will walk because I’m celebrating LIFE!”
Leaphart’s first cousin Monique died from breast cancer aged 32 in 2013, and she was diagnosed later that year, when she claims God told her to have a mammogram.
“He whispered in my sleep that I had cancer,” she said “I have a very close relationship with God. We’re tight.”
Leaphart needed a double mammogram and, due to a blood condition, was told she could not have reconstructive surgery. She’s now fighting to break the taboo around breast cancer in her community.
“I was so angry at the fact that we, especially as black women, we want to hold stuff in and don’t want people to know our business and we feel ashamed, like we did something wrong.
“We’ve got to stop that.”
Leaphart was asked to appear in the Hope and Freedom sections of Beyoncé’s new visual album, after images of her topless chest on the beach went viral in 2014.