Seattle Woman Fights for Breast Cancer Survivors’ Right to Swim Topless

Jodi Jaecks, who had both breasts amputated following a cancer diagnosis last year, has turned her frustration with painful, ill-fitting swimsuits into a rights campaign.

  • Share
  • Read Later

One Seattle breast cancer survivor is  making waves with her bid to swim topless at a local pool following her double mastectomy in March.

“I’m not an exhibitionistic kind of person. It’s not my personality,” Jodi Jaecks, 45, told ABC News. “I don’t think of this as nudity. Not as it’s generally perceived.”

Jaecks says that not only was she having trouble finding a suit that fit well, most swimsuit tops caused her a great deal of pain, as the nerves on her chest were still very sensitive post-surgery. When she asked the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department whether she could swim topless at her city pool, they told her no, citing a rule requiring “gender-appropriate clothing.”

A photo of a topless Jaecks ran in The Stranger, a Seattle weekly newspaper, on Wednesday, which prompted the Parks department to reverse their decision. “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,” Parks Superintendent Christopher Williams said in a statement last week. Jaecks took her first public topless swim on Monday.

(READ: Pink Light Burlesque: Breast Cancer Survivors Strip Down and Celebrate)

While Jaecks was granted the right to swim topless, the ruling did not extend to include all breast cancer survivors. Jaecks told the Associated Press she felt “quite deflated” after hearing that the reversal was an exception for her instead of a policy change. What started as a personal accommodation has evolved into a bigger issue for the cancer survivor.

“Sure [the issue started] with my personal interest in swimming, but as soon the department clarified their policy then it became much more political to me,” Jaecks told ABC News.

Williams is putting together a committee of cancer survivors, parks staff, and King County health representatives to come up with a new policy, the Associated Press reports. Until then, the department will review each case individually.

While Jaecks is fighting this issue for fellow breast cancer survivors who have opted not to have reconstructive surgery after a mastectomy, some argue that going topless is in fact a bigger equal rights issue—breasts or no breasts.

It’s currently legal to go topless in certain cities across the country, although Seattle isn’t one of them. Website (NSFW) lists cities where going topless is currently legal, including New York City, Boulder, Austin, Portland, and Washington, D.C.

NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Public Information Paul Browne clarified New York City’s policy to The Village Voice earlier this month, explaining: “The state’s highest court established long ago that women have the same right as men to appear topless in public.”

MORE: My Sister, My Surrogate: After Battling Cancer, One Woman Receives the Ultimate Mother’s Day Gift