(MSNBC) Jodi Jaecks, the 47-year-old breast cancer survivor who made local headlines this week for wanting to swim topless at a Seattle-area pool, had tried many things to soothe the nerve pain she suffered following a double mastectomy and chemotherapy last year.
Drugs, physical therapy and specific pain treatments all failed to ease the burning caused by chest-wall nerves that are over-stimulated by the trauma of surgery. So when the facilitator of a breast cancer support group suggested she try swimming, Jaecks jumped on the idea.
“Water sounded soothing,” she says. (Full disclosure: Writer Diane Mapes is a breast cancer survivor in Seattle who met Jaecks in a support group.)
But the waters of the Medgar Evers Pool in Seattle’s Central District were declared off-limits to Jaecks after she informed pool personnel of her plan: to swim without a bathing suit top. Officials said her appearance might disrupt the pool’s family-friendly atmosphere and they insisted that Jaecks follow existing policy and wear “gender-appropriate swimwear.”
Jaecks, who has neither breasts nor nipples, says she wasn’t looking for a fight, simply a way to be active and perhaps get some temporary relief for her chest pain.
“At first, it was just a personal fitness issue,” she says. “I wanted to get into shape and once the idea of swimming was presented to me, I was excited about it.”
She went searching for a bathing suit, but found they irritated her chest. She came away disheartened.
“I tried one-pieces and two-pieces and looked at swimwear for women who’d had double mastectomies but they were all swimsuits with prostheses,” she says. “I’m never going to fake it. I’m not ashamed of my body.”
It took pool officials weeks even to respond to Jaecks’ request. When they did, Jaecks felt slighted and decided to tell her story to the Seattle alternative weekly, The Stranger, which went public with it this week.
“It started as a personal fitness issue but once they said no to me, it became a far greater overarching political issue,” she says. “I’m hoping this will change their policy,” she told the paper. “Ultimately, I want to remove the stigma that women with breast cancer have to endure. We should be so far beyond that at this point.”
- City Makes Narrow Exception for One Breast-Cancer Survivor Who Had Been Banned from Swimming Topless in Pools (slog.thestranger.com)
- Seattle pool allows topless breast cancer survivor (clickondetroit.com)
- Seattle pool allows topless breast cancer survivor (heraldonline.com)