Please click and drag the white arrows to see the underwater transformation.
My name is Chiara D’Agostino, I’m 47 years old and I was born of Italian immigrants in Montclair, New Jersey, where I grew up.
I am living with stage 4 breast cancer, also known as metastatic breast cancer. Diagnosed stage 3 in 2014 after finding the lump myself, I went through four months of chemotherapy and lost my hair, along with many relationships and people over the years…I had a double mastectomy and while there was no evidence of disease for about 14 months, that time was spent in hospitals exchanging the implants that got infected seven times. August 2016 nodules were found in my lungs, upping my status to stage 4 triple negative breast cancer. I’ve since explanted the prosthetics and am comfortably flat-chested. I’ve been kept alive through modern medicine and research, participating in three separate clinical trials in New Jersey and New York. The cancer has since spread to my liver, lungs, lymph nodes, bones, brain, skull, intestines and abdomen. Currently bald for the third time from chemotherapy, I have IV chemotherapy three times a month at Columbia University in New York City.
When I got sick, I had just returned from Florence, Italy where I earned my Masters degree in Italian Language and Culture. I wanted to travel use my bilingual skills. instead, I buried my father and found a lump on my breast. A few months later I started a blog called Beauty Through The Beast to document my story and to de-mystify the breast cancer myth that it’s the easy cancer to have and that you come out with the best rack on the block. I didn’t. I’m an influencer on instagram and I feel like we are in this together – I gain so much from other people’s strength, struggles, transparency, successes and wisdom. The erratic treatment schedule allows me some free time and I feel my best when I am modeling and attending cancer conferences as an avid advocate. I’m as much in the moment as possible, and I find joy in nature, through creative expression and with children.
I wanted to be involved in the Underwater Healer About Face because I welcomed the transformation – I am not a good swimmer, so I was a bit intimidated by the thought of coordinating a meaningful photo underwater. I expected that it would be a question of trust, and I trusted Erena because I visited her online portfolio and saw her amazing art. I wanted to be a part of this tactile feeling of creatively playing with water, curious as to what feelings would come up. Erena asked about incorporating the art of Japanese rope art and I am very intrigued! I also love the colorful fabrics I’ve seen in previous photos, so I hope to one able to dance with them underwater 🙂
I plan on being as open to suggestion and guidance from Erena. As a trained scuba diver and professional underwater photographer and all around kind person, I trust her. I also plan on being aware of my inhibitions and challenging them, like using an underwater breathing technique I may not be used to, but also being tied up in Japanese rope art – I’m excited for the challenge 🙂
I was excited for an adventure, curious about the process and anxious about the breathing process with underwater photography.
The underwater portrait session was fun work! Erena is very patient and clear in instruction, so I kept trying. We did cross any boundaries and I even photographed in the deep end!
After the photo shoot, I felt exhilarated and a little tired, but tired in a good way. I really enjoyed the adventure and creative process. I enjoyed crossing the mental and physical hurdles I had about breathing underwater for photography, and I was happy about that. I did it with the helping guidance of Erena and the project and I am grateful.
The water peaks my curiosity – it can be very relaxing and soothing and also very dangerous. I know how to tread water and that’s about it. When I am stressed I often take a bath. I enjoy the sound of waves and often listen to water sounds for relaxation.
I believe this experience can help in processing my trauma – I now have this amazing photo shoot to reference as a good experience (when I normally would not spend the much time int he water).
Yes, I would go back in the water again, in fact right after the shoot I suggested Erena and I shoot again 🙂
I’m excited to see what we can make together – thank you so much for offering me the space for this transformative experience.
I don’t remember how I slept that night – but I recall my body feeling a healthy tired. My limbs enjoyed moving so freely!
Erena was patient, calm, very attentive, caring, and carefully made suggestions. She was clear in her communication, sometimes demonstrating, and seemed to be one step ahead. Erena was in immediate range and helped me a few times when I needed help getting to the side of the pool from the deep end. I felt safe, heard and seen with Erena and that was most important.
I certainly would recommend underwater transformation to other survivors or to anyone – I encourage people to face their fears or try new things! I felt Erena was fun and safe to work with 🙂
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