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Seattle Cancer Survivor Fights for Right to go Topless in Public

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Seattle cancer survivor fights for survivors' rights to swim topless in public Goodshoot/Thinkstock

When Jodi Jaecks made a request at her local public pool in Seattle, Wash., to swim topless she wasn’t trying to make waves. But the request has stirred up a conversation that has broader implications for other women.

Jaecks, 45, had a double mastectomy following a breast cancer diagnosis last year. One ill-fitting swimsuit after another left Jaecks with no choice but to ask the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department to swim topless.

“I’m not an exhibitionistic kind of person. It’s not in my personality,” Jaecks told ABC News. “I don’t think of this as nudity. Not as it is generally perceived. I don't have any breast tissue whatsoever. I don't have nipples. I just have two scars.”

Jaceks says her request is a matter of necessity. She wanted to exercise as part of her overall health and fitness, and swimming is best for her.

But most swimsuit tops rub her the wrong way, causing pain from nerves on her chest that are still very sensitive. At first the city denied her request, citing a rule requiring “gender-appropriate clothing.”

After a photo of a topless Jaecks ran in The Stranger a Seattle weekly newspaper last week, the Parks dept. reversed its decision, reported Time.com. On Monday, Jaecks took her first topless public swim.

“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.

However, the right to swim topless doesn’t extend to 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 broader policy change.

What started as a personal accommodation has evolved into a personal crusade for the cancer survivor.

“I see it as a greater issue to rid us all of the stigma of cancer and make people aware,” Jaecks told NBC news affiliate KNS-TV.

Williams told the Associate Press he is putting together a committee of cancer survivors, parks staff, and King County health representatives to come up with a new policy.

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