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My name is Amber Rice, born and raised in Los Angeles. I’m currently in Hayward, CA and I’m 33 years old.
Veteran History: I joined the US Navy at 18 years old because I wanted to serve my country and see the world. I entered as an Undesignated Airman and spent 6 years in the military. I became and OS (Operations Specialist) 2 years after joining and did 2 ship deployments. I’ve toured different countries such as: Greece, Italy, France, and Dubai…The military definitely shaped who I would become as a woman. It is also where I met my husband of now 10years ❤️
Type of Cancer: DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ) is Stage 0 breast cancer.
November of 2016…it had been about 5 months since I stopped breastfeeding my then 1 year old baby boy. I felt a small lump in my breast and didn’t think the worst of anything. I thought it was for sure the disease moms usually get from engorgement (mastitis) in the breast. I went to the doctor to get checked. I received a mammogram and breast ultrasound and was told a week later to come back. That’s when I was put through all tests. Biopsies, Beast MRI, CT scans…each test coming back with more definite results of me having breast cancer. I was told my results were unique because usually with DCIS you receive a lumpectomy (partial removal of breast in a particular area) or take some hormonal medicine and it will eventually go away. But with mine the DCIS was moving aggressively and spread throughout my entire right breast so I had to receive a mastecomy soon before it begins to spread to my other breast. I had my surgery in February 2017 and 30 doses of Radiation Therapy from April-June 2017. I am now in Remission since June 2017. It seems as though time stood still during that brief time, but with the major support of my family and friends I recovered physically well.
What I thought about this project: I remember Erena’s comment on one of my pictures and I saw her IG name and instantly went to her page. All I saw was beauty, strength, inspirations, mermaids/mermen. And I wanted to be apart of it. I went to read stories on her website about how it felt to be underwater and how free it felt to just let go and release mentally, physically, and spiritually. It was all I needed to be on board with her mission!
Plans for Photoshoot: I remember when I was first diagnosed with BC. I immediately took to the internet to find pictures of “women with mastectomies” but most importantly black women. I found literally like 2/3 out of hundreds in the images section. So when I do photoshoots I think about how many black women are diagnosed vs how many are portrayed online. I always want to show the beauty and strength that women with breast cancer have, because to be a survivor/thriver we are all bad ass! Which is why I show my scar as much as possible!
Expectations: When I arrived with my husband and our middle child (son) my heart started beating a little fast because I was so excited which makes me nervous because it’s something I’d never done before. But when I met Erena I was still excited and nervous hahahaha but she made me feel 100% calm and 200% excited! I went into the water expecting to be cleansed of any negativity/pain I’ve experienced through breast cancer and of course have fun. Very excited and very nervous, because I’ve never taken even a regular cell phone picture underwater lol I just wanted to do it right and not mess up! I wouldn’t say I was afraid because I can swim pretty well.
How was the experience with underwater session: OMG it was so powerful. I just felt a whole lot of everything (anxiety/nervousness/frustration/pain) being released from my body…I felt so free! I’ve never been underwater for so long but it felt so natural. There were times where I could’ve stayed under for over a minute even after blowing out all my air. I wanted to stay in longer ❤️
What does water mean to me: Water is transparent and cleansing. Every time I’m in water I feel warm and refreshed and I will most definitely recommend this experience to anyone who’s experienced any type of trauma. It will make you feel an instant gratification and release. I wish I could do this at LEAST once a week.
How did I sleep: both my husband and I slept like rocks LOL It had us feeling amazing and tired. It was a workout and usually after working out (almost daily) I get a big dose of energy, but after the underwater session all I wanted to do was smile and sleep.
How was Erena working with you: another OMG Erena is like this huge ball of sunshine and fresh flowers. She brightened my whole life! I absolutely loved working with her. She made me feel so calm and comfortable! Her smile is big, beautiful, and welcoming. She made me and my family feel safe and it was such a great experience being in the water with her. Oh and she saved my life when I first went into the deep end Hahahahahaha
Would I recommend the underwater transformation to other survivors: the term “Underwater Transformation” means just that it is truly a transformation. Like I stated before it feels like a release of and type of bad energy you’ve been holding onto. I WILL recommend this to all survivors I know.
How do I compare this shoot with other photo shoots: I would say that this shoot made me work! My mental headspace is in a different place now too compared to other shoots. I was also able to do pretty much anything with my body and Erena just went with it. Did I tell you how amazing she is???!!! Love her and I’m thankful I was able to be apart of such a beautiful experience ❤️
I was hesitant on adding this last piece…I was sexually molested at age 3 that went on for a few years. It has affected me for a very long time. Since that childhood experience, I’ve been groped and sexually/mentally abused in my teens and early twenties (before meeting my husband). I was even sexually assaulted while in the military (by a higher ranking person who got kicked out of the military because of it) I always leave it out of my journey but it’s still very much there which is why I have a PTSD disability from the Navy.
Being in that water truly helped me cleanse my spirit and mind. It still affects me, but it no longer has power over me. Just like Breast Cancer. I am very thankful for you allowing me to be apart of your special project. You have forever altered my life in the most positive way!