Seattle Parks allows breast-cancer survivor to swim without top

Jun 21, 2012

A breast-cancer survivor has won the right to swim without a top in Seattle’s public pools. 

Jodi Jaecks has been seeking permission to swim topless since February, saying swim tops irritated the scars from her double mastectomy.  The Seattle Times reports the city put off her request for months but made a decision yesterday after The Stranger reported her story

The Parks Department announced that Jaecks is the only woman allowed to swim without a top, and only during adult-swim times. Jaecks says that’s not good enough, and would like to see the dress code changed for all women with mastectomy scars. 

"It puts the onus on the individual to ask for permission. It has the potential, then, for women to think that they should be ashamed or try to pass—that they should cover themselves up," she told The Stranger. "It's not a policy then, really."

According to The Stranger’s original story, thousands of women will have mastectomies but not reconstructive surgery:

“Approximately 4,500 women in Washington State will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, according to the National Cancer Institute, and roughly half of those women – or 2,250 – will have mastectomies. Of those women, only 37 percent will decide to have reconstructive surgery, according to a 2008 study from the American Association of Plastic Surgeons. Which means thousands of women each year are adjusting to living without breasts and learning to love their new altered bodies.”

Permission for others to swim topless will be considered by the Parks Department on a case-by-case basis. City officials say the rule is meant to help patrons feel comfortable and protect children. 

"I looked at one-piece suits. I looked at bikinis, hoping that there would be one that was made for a flat-chested woman. I looked at rash guard tops. I looked at men's triathlon tops," Jaecks told KOMO 4. "I just got really depressed. I spent an hour there trying things on, and thought, this is stupid. Accept the new me and I'll just wear my swimsuit bottoms."

Text of the news release sent out by the parks department:

[Headline] Seattle Parks Superintendent statement: reconsiders policy on mastectomy patient in Seattle public pools

Seattle Parks and Recreation Superintendent Christopher Williams today decided to allow a double mastectomy patient and cancer survivor to swim without a top in Seattle public pools.

“After looking at the situation again,” Williams said, “I decided to reconsider based on the circumstances of the case. 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.”

“I think our staff were correct to follow our policy at the time the earlier decision was made, and my decision is based on new information.”

Today’s Slog ran a piece: http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/cover-up/Content?oid=13970858 that showed a photo of the cancer survivor.

Williams says he will review on a case by case basis future cases of people who have undergone surgeries and want accommodation.

KOMO4's story on Jaecks: