Breast cancer

Updated 22 April 2013

Breast cancer survivor swims topless in Seattle

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.


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 said.

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

Warm water cathartic

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.

No need for fake breasts

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."

(Laura Myers, Reuters Health, June 2012) 

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Dr Gudgeon qualified in Birmingham, England, in 1968. She has more than 40 years experience in oncology, and in 1994 she founded her practice, Cape Breast Care, where she treats benign and malignant breast cancers. Dr Boeddinghaus obtained her qualification at UCT Medical School in 1994 and her MRCP in London in 1998. She has worked extensively in the field of oncology and has a special interest in the hormonal management of breast cancer. She now works with Dr Gudgeon at Cape Breast Care. Read more.

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