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Cancer survivor wins right to swim topless

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Crystal Huskey
WVoN co-editor 

Jodi Jaecks, 47, had a double mastectomy in 2011.  The surgery left her with no breasts or nipples.

Following the advice of friends in a breast cancer support group, she decided to reclaim her fitness by swimming, after an arduous sickness and recovery period.

She toured the pool at Seattle’s Medgar Evers and informed the front desk staff that she would be swimming topless.  As it turned out, that was a problem.

As a family-friendly facility, the parks department did not feel that it would be appropriate for Jaecks to swim topless.

Spokeswoman Dewey Potter said they wanted to make sure that “people from different cultural backgrounds feel comfortable swimming.”  She also said that she believed Jaecks wanted to be shocking and subversive and “show her scars as a badge of courage and… use the pool to spread her message.”

Jaecks asserts that swimsuit tops are painful for her because of sensitive scars and nerve damage, a common complaint among breast cancer survivors.

“I certainly was not trying to be provocative — I just wanted to convince them that it wasn’t inappropriate,” Jaecks said in a Seattle Times article. “I could have gone back and just jumped into the pool topless, but that’s not my style. I was trying to be respectful.”

After her story was published in Seattle’s The Stranger, the parks department changed course on their policy.  She is now allowed to swim topless during adult lap sessions.  The decision only applies to her — women with similar experiences will have to be judged on a case -by-case basis.

For Jaecks, that’s not good enough.

“It’s going to be harder for a more reserved, self-conscious woman to have the guts to stand out and be different,” she said.

She plans to continue her fight until all women have the choice to swim topless, regardless of circumstance.

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