Seattle pool allows topless breast cancer survivor

SEATTLE — A Seattle breast cancer survivor whose breasts were surgically removed has gained the permission to swim topless at a city pool.

But Jodi Jaecks wants to make sure her privilege is also extended to other breast cancer survivors who want to swim comfortably.

“Initially when I heard about the reversal, I was elevated. Then it came that it wasn’t a policy change, it was just an exception for me. Then I was quite deflated. It seemed like it was a reaction that it was just meant to appease me,” the 47-year-old said Thursday.

On Wednesday, Seattle Parks and Recreation Superintendent Christopher Williams announced he was giving Jaecks an exception to the department’s clothing policy.

“Our original concern stems from our responsibility to accommodate the needs of all our patrons. In this case, I see nothing that might alarm the public,” Williams said in a statement. He was reacting to an article about Jaecks that was published in The Stranger weekly newspaper, which also ran a picture of her topless.

Williams said that he will review on a case-by-case basis requests from people who have had surgery and want to swim.

After enduring two surgeries, rounds of chemotherapy and the surgical removal of both her breasts in March 2011, Jaecks wanted to turn to swimming to regain her strength. But swimsuit tops proved too uncomfortable and nerves on her chest remained tender, Jaecks said.

So she asked the manager at her city pool if she could swim topless earlier this year. Eventually, she heard from the head of the aquatics department, who told her she couldn’t.

“And that’s when they said it was a policy that they required gender-appropriate clothing … regardless if I had nipples or whatever,” Jaecks said.

Jaecks hasn’t swum topless yet. She is planning a swim on Monday. Her exception extends only to adult lap hours.

She plans to meet with Williams next week and ask that her exception be extended to anyone who survived breast cancer.

Jaecks said cancer patients shouldn’t be made to feel self-conscious by asking for special permission.

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