A breast cancer survivor who had a double mastectomy is running this weekend's London Marathon topless to show surgery scars are not something to be ashamed of.
Louise Butcher, 49, from Braunton is taking part in the race virtually, meaning she will follow a 26.2 mile course near her home in Devon.
And she will be doing the route bare-chested in a bid to help empower other women who have undergone mastectomies.
"I would find it hard to walk around showing my scars, but running gives me the extra strength," the mum-of-two explains.
“If you see a lady running past with no breasts it gets it out there and talked about."
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Butcher was initially diagnosed with lobular breast cancer in April 2022.
She had started running 18 months previously and was in training for her first virtual London Marathon when she found out.
The charity volunteer discovered a lump when checking herself and her breast cancer diagnosis was later confirmed by an ultrasound.
Despite having cancer in just one breast, Butcher opted to have both her breasts removed.
And, determined not to let the diagnosis or radiotherapy treatment stop her from running, she completed last year's race in an impressive five hours and five minutes.
“I’ve always run but I started running seriously about 18 months ago while training for last year's London Marathon," she says.
"Then halfway through I got diagnosed with cancer."
“I run for my mental health as it helps with my anxiety bouts and it really helped my cancer journey - keeping me strong and helping me recover from the surgeries."
While she is still undergoing hormone blocking treatment Butcher is keen to show others that breast cancer doesn’t mean they have to stop doing what they love.
So this year Butcher has decided to complete this year’s virtual race, which will see her run from Braunton to Bideford and back again, without covering her scars.
She also plans to undertake a skydive later this year to raise money for local charity Over and Above, based in Barnstaple, which aims to support people living with cancer, providing additional treatment and supporting people during their recovery.
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“When I went on Facebook pages for support for women with breast cancer and mastectomies, I got a feeling from certain women that there was a fear of the scars," Butcher explains.
“For me it was a mixture of emotions – initially all I cared about was getting rid of the cancer, I wasn’t thinking about my breasts or how I looked.
“I opted to have the second breast off rather than just one breast because it looked odd to me, so I had two surgeries to remove both.
“It’s not something you ask for, but I’m proud of it now and want to empower other women to feel the same and to help those who don’t feel that way to feel that empowerment."
Butcher says running has played a big role in her recovery process and she hopes revealing her scars while she takes part this weekend will illustrate that strength.
“Exercise is a massive strength for me – it gives you a good feeling and endorphins," she explains.
Virtual London Marathon runners have a full 24 hours to complete their 26.2 miles on Sunday (April 23).
They can choose their own location and route, take breaks in this time and complete the marathon in as many runs as they like.
Participants then use the official TCS London Marathon App to log and track the run.
Additional reporting SWNS.