Breastless cancer survivor told she cannot swim topless in public pool – despite 'searing pain' of wearing bikini top
20:14 GMT, 21 June 2012
A woman who survived breast cancer after a double mastectomy was banned from swimming topless at her public pool.
Fellow swimmers were outraged by the decision made by Seattle Parks and Recreation department, which refused to let Jodi Jaecks swim
topless – despite the nerve pain she suffers across her chest and neck.
After telling the 45-year-old that her bare chest would disrupt the family-friendly environment, a public outcry led the parks department to reverse its controversial decision, allowing her to swim wearing only her shorts.
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Swimming ban: The Seattle Parks and Recreation Department has refused to let Jodi Jaecks, 45, swim topless despite suffering from nerve pain
Ms Jaecks, a lifelong athlete, said she wanted to reclaim her fitness at the Medgar Evers Pool in central Seattle after months of debilitating cancer treatments.
She underwent a double mastectomy in 2011 which left her flat-chested, with two thin scars where her nipples once lay.
However, post-mastectomy swimsuits, which often contain extra material to allow for prosthetic breast forms, are too uncomfortable for her to wear because of debilitating nerve pain – a common side effect of the surgery.
She told The Stranger: 'It burns all the time – a pretty searing, intense pain.'
Before cancer: Ms Jaecks is a lifelong athlete, and said she wanted to reclaim her fitness at the Medgar Evers Pool in central Seattle after months of debilitating cancer treatments
Ms Jaecks is one of nearly 1,200 women in the state of Washington alone who have mastectomies annually, and choose not to have reconstructive surgery.
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The parks department, which maintains Seattle's ten public pools, strictly stuck to their dress code that women must wear tops and bottoms.
The department's spokesperson, Dewey Potter explained that bathing suits must be 'appropriate at a family facility,' ensuring that people from different cultural backgrounds feel comfortable swimming.
Ms Jaecks was told that her topless body would disrupt the family-friendly environment, with Ms Potter adding at the time: 'She made it clear she wanted to show her scars as a “badge of courage”
and wanted to use the pool to spread her message.'
After weeks of waiting for the parks
aquatic manager to address her request, she was again told she was not
welcome to swim unless she wore 'gender appropriate swimwear.'
However, after public outcry at the
decision, the parks Superintendent Christopher Williams has said there
is 'nothing to alarm the public, so the department decided to make an
exception to its dress policy for public pools.'
Supporting swimmers: Fellow pool-goers were outraged by the parks decision, which refused to let Ms Jaecks swim topless
Swimming rules: The parks department, which maintains Seattle's ten public pools, strictly stuck to their dress code that women must wear tops and bottoms
Dr Patricia Dawson, a breast surgery specialist at
Swedish Medical Center called the policy 'stupid' and 'incredibly misguided.'
She said: 'This clearly reflects how politicized women's bodies and breasts are in
Many mothers came out saying they would not no be worried if a woman such as Ms Jaecks swam topless in front of their children.
Gideon Jones from Montana wrote: 'I've
had to explain wheelchairs, dredlocks [sic], prosthetic legs, little
people, burn scars, albinos, and about a million other things to our
kids over the years. Pretty sure they're better for it. This bit of
ridiculousness is about adult discomfort, not kids.'
'It's good for kids to
be exposed to the positive reality – not only of the existence of cancer, but
as a fact of humanity'
Brittney Stewart, a double-mastectomy
breast cancer survivor who often swims topless with her children
in Lake Washington, agreed.
Prior to the parks new decision, she said: 'I'm frankly appalled. I'm trying to teach my kids that my body isn't
something to be ashamed or afraid of. Policies like this make it much
It was also noted at the time of Ms Jaecks ban that the parks policy is more restrictive than city law, which states nudity is not illegal.
Sergeant Sean Whitcomb, from the Seattle Police Department, said that streaking, sunbathing and swimming in public places is not against the law unless it is 'accompanied by
behavior that causes a reasonable person affront or alarm.'
Ms Jaecks added: 'It's good for kids to
be exposed to the positive reality – not only of the existence of cancer
as a fact of humanity, but also the example of surviving it with
strength and spirit intact.'