Seattle Parks Has Opportunity to Change Mastectomy Stigma

Last week the Seattle Parks Department made the right move with a policy exception allowing Jodi Jaecks, who had a double-mastectomy, to swim without a top. Jodi wanted to regain fitness post-treatment, and tight clothing irritates her scars and recovering nerves. Her argument that she didn’t have breasts or nipples, the body parts that required covering, is a valid one. I’m guessing the pool staff was worried that her mastectomy scars might offend other swimmers.

The SCAR Project posterThis story reminded me of The SCAR Project: Breast Cancer is Not a Pink Ribbon, an exhibition of large-scale portraits of young breast cancer survivors shot by fashion photographer David Jay. The exhibit has slowly been making its way around the country, and I encourage you to read about the project or view The SCAR Project video. It is both sobering and inspirational.

Cancer, war or any kind of traumatic injury changes a human body, often resulting in scars or loss of body parts. This is a very real part of human life, and may be difficult for others to look at. Imagine being the person whose body will never be the same.

Jodi’s decision to challenge the Seattle Parks resulted in an policy exception for her, but won’t necessarily extend to the next swimmer. In an announcement on the Seattle Parks website, Superintendent Christopher Williams indicated the department is convening a group of health care and legal professionals to address the policy in its entirety.

We’ve come far in de-stigmatizing breast cancer diagnoses but there’s work to do in acknowledging the aftermath of breast cancer surgery. I hope this group has the courage to change the policy.

What do you think?

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