Breast cancer survivor wins right to swim topless in Seattle

SEATTLE Fri Jun 22, 2012 12:39am EDT

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SEATTLE (Reuters) - A woman who survived a double mastectomy and says wearing a bathing suit covering her chest causes searing pain has won a battle to swim topless at Seattle's public pools.

Jodi Jaecks, a 47-year-old fitness buff who had surgery to remove both breasts last year to treat cancer, was initially denied permission this year to swim topless by staff at Seattle's Medgar Evers pool.

According to city spokesperson Dewey Potter, a sign at the pool stated, "This is a family recreation facility. Please dress and act accordingly." Other city employees at the pool blamed an unwritten city policy that required "gender-appropriate" bathing suits, Jaecks told Reuters.

But acting Seattle Parks and Recreation Superintendent Christopher Williams told her on Wednesday that due to her physical therapy, she would be granted a narrow exception to swim topless at all public pools during adult lap swims.

Jaecks, whose self-described "androgynous" thin physique now resembles that of a young man's, said that swimming in a bathing suit covering her chest, left with two thin scars and no nipples following surgery, caused searing pain.

"I had a lot of chest pains and I was told that the feeling of warm water on the pain would be cathartic," said Jaecks, who finished chemotherapy in November and is now cancer-free.

Seattle weekly newspaper "The Stranger" published a photo of her, poolside and topless, on Wednesday.

Williams announced the city's policy reversal in a news release: "Our original concern stems from our responsibility to accommodate the needs of all of our patrons. In this case I see nothing that might alarm the public."

City recreation officials requested a meeting next week with Jaecks, and plan to hammer out a new pool attire policy with other cancer survivors and experts, Potter said.

Jaecks opted against reconstructive surgery. "I don't see a need to fake having breasts," she said.

"My ultimate goal is to change policy at beaches and pools, to increase people's awareness of cancer and the realities of the human condition," Jaecks told Reuters.

(Editing by Tim Gaynor, Cynthia Johnston and Philip Barbara)

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