Superstar Royal Devon Hospitals Charity fundraiser and ambassador Louise Butcher – aka The Topless Runner’ – laced up her running shoes in October 2022, just days after finishing radiotherapy treatment.
The mum-of-two was still recovering from a double mastectomy only months before but took on the virtual London Marathon to raise money for the Fern Centre at North Devon District Hospital, the cancer and wellbeing centre that had been supporting Louise and her family.
In April that year, Louise, from Braunton was diagnosed with lobular breast cancer, just three weeks after being given the all clear following a mammogram.
The ultrasound had picked up a form of the disease that is sometimes missed by mammograms and within weeks, Louise was given the devastating news that she needed a mastectomy.
She decided to decline the offer of reconstructive surgery and had mastectomies to remove her breasts in June and August.
A 5-day course of radiotherapy followed in September, and only three days after finishing her treatment, Louise ran her first marathon.
In April 2023, she made national and international news when running the 26.2-mile distance again – this time going topless, proudly displaying the scars of her double mastectomy.
Louise said that by running topless, she hopes to raise awareness, reduce the stigma of surgery scars and encourage body positivity in women.
“It’s to give encouragement to women and men about being body positive and accepting the way they have become or the way they are,” she said.
“It’s about seeing beauty in scars rather than covering them up. These scars saved my life and enable me to see my children grow up.”
In August, Louise took her fundraising for the Fern Centre to new heights by doing a skydive! And in February this year, she was named a ‘Local Hero’ by the Lynton and Lynmouth Cliff Railway and asked to to open the railway for the tourist season with a special topless-themed grand opening.
“The Fern Centre offers cancer patients in North Devon free access to information, complementary therapies and counselling and has been such a lifesaver for me and my family,” said Louise.
“I felt so guilty that I had taken my family on the journey with me but the Fern Centre offers support for the whole family.
It’s not just for the person with cancer, but for the people supporting that person– Louise
“For me, it’s also provided the connection with other people going through the same thing, and the opportunity to talk to people like counsellors.
“Even a little thing like a massage, just to make you feel a bit better when you’ve been through horrendous things can make a massive difference.”
Louise continues to support Royal Devon Hospital Charity as a volunteer ambassador and has exciting plans to support the charity in 2024. Watch this space…!