Following a June 19 story from The Stranger, Seattle Parks and Recreation has made an exception to allow Jodi Jaecks to swim topless in the area’s public pools.
Jaecks, a 47-year-old breast cancer survivor, underwent a double mastectomy and chemotherapy in 2011. After her surgeries, Jaecks tried swimming to soothe the nerve pain in her chest, and she wanted to swim at Medgar Evers Pool in Seattle’s Central District.
According to The Stranger, women in Jaecks’s breast cancer support group recommended the pool for its warm temperature and low chlorine levels.
But when Jaecks arrived at the pool, she was told swimming topless was not allowed. Even though the mastectomy left her without breasts or nipples, Seattle Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Dewey Potter, as quoted in The Stranger, required that bathing suits be “appropriate for a family facility.” Parks officials said they did not want to offend other swimmers or people from different cultural backgrounds.
Jaecks found no swimsuits or post-mastectomy suits comfortable enough to be used. She argued that if she were a transgendered male, she could wear only swimming trunks and her naked chest would not be considered offensive to other pool visitors.
“It started as a personal fitness issue, but once [Seattle parks]said no to me, it became a far greater overarching political issue...I’m hoping this will change their policy,” Jaecks told The Stranger. “Ultimately, I want to remove the stigma that women with breast cancer have to endure. We should be so far beyond that at this point.”
The city relented after The Stranger ran an article and a photo of Jaecks wearing only swimming trunks. The exception is only for Jaecks, not all breast cancer survivors.
Christopher Williams, parks superintendent, said the requests to swim topless from breast cancer survivors with double mastectomies will only be considered on a “case-by-case basis,” prompting criticism for such a narrow rule that puts the responsibility upon breast cancer survivors to request permission.
The city does recognize that a “wholesale policy change” might be necessary, according to a June 21 update from The Stranger. The department has issued Jaecks an apology and is now assembling a work group to revamp parks policy.
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