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Elke and Peter – 2 Time Cancer Survivors

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Elke and Peter

2 Time Leukemia, Colon and Kidney Cancer Survivor

My name is Peter Uwe Junglaussen, 82 years old. I’m from Flensburg, Germany.
My wife’s name is Elke Jungclaussen, 74 years old. She is from Eckernfoerde, Germany.

I was diagnosed with leukemia in October, 2006, when I found out my wife had got over her cancer. My cancer came back in 2017. Both times were treated with chemo – still ongoing. I am thankful to still be here and enjoy times with my wife, sons and their wife’s, and my grand daughter.

My wife Elke survived from colon cancer in 2000. It was very extreme with a life prediction of 4 month. It took three big operations. And then she struggled with kidney cancer last fall, 2016 with another big operation.

It was breaking my heart.

Our son booked the session and we are a bit afraid of the underwater time but we are going to try to do it and enjoy as much as possible.

Underwater, we want to show our love for each-other without exhausting ourselves.

We warmed up and tried out some breathing techniques before the photo shoot. We went down but it is really difficult to judge how deep and relaxed you actually are.

I felt comfortable in the water in general. But I was just not sure how it will turn out when you start sinking down and you try to look at the camera, but can’t really see anything, because you are underwater. But the camera does see you and if your eyes are open or not. All I saw was the step down into the deeper section. I am not afraid of water, but it is a strange feeling also because you never know when you are being photographed.

Water was very warm. It was extremely comfortable.

The underwater experience not uncomfortable. Erena was always preparing us counting 1, 2, 3 before going down. One thing was strange when you didn’t let out enough air, you just wouldn’t sink down enough. And if you let out more air later you see all these bubbles in front of my face. We were holding hands before we went down and sometimes Elke or sometimes I was deeper. That was quite a new and unusual situation. It is different from just playing in the water. Because normally you don’t hold each other and because you always try to orient yourself towards the camera and you try to express something. Plus we were asked to be relaxed and behave normal, but when you moved around in a normal way, and you have no idea how that looks and you have less of feel for your own movements and gestures. Less than on land.

Balancing the position was not easy, especially trying to stay on one depth level with Elke. Because you are dependent on the amount of air you still have stored in your lungs. There was no fear because with a couple of strokes you always make it back to the surface, but sinking down with too much air in your body is hard. Underwater, there were no uncomfortable or disrupting sounds. Even if you move your arms or legs, there is now wave that crashes. Underwater, it is all quiet. Not even the bubbles made really sounds. It is just quiet.

Erena gave you the confidence that everything is safe. She asked us in the beginning to move around, and touch each other to warm up. She didn’t start filming right away. We explored the shallow area and the deep area. After we returned to the shallow area, she asked us to really hold each other, sink down and look towards the camera. That was a bit exciting. And it was special as we were doing it together and somehow synchronized. And you could only judge your position by looking at the tiles of the sidewalls, otherwise, you couldn’t tell and it was surprising to see that we were often not even fully underwater with our heads. We were so close to the surface but it didn’t feel like it. She was really well prepared and our son, Peter was translating.

It was really helpful that she exuded such calmness and was always calm an in control to be aware when we needed to come back up for air and how she used those moments to give us tips how to move or look so we could try to execute it on the next dive. But you just couldn’t see what you did yourself or your partner. You are just swimming and sinking and have to go completely by your feeling. We were able to see the images in between but we needed our glasses to see and they had fogged up and had water drops on them, so that was a bit difficult to see, but still it was helpful to see how our position was very different. Her tip was to just let yourself sink so we would be more synchronized. She knew exactly how to help us and what to tell us. It made the whole situation really relaxed and calm for us.

It is very different to bodysurfing and being underwater because it is more in motion. It was over an hour in total. With a sequence of 1, 2, 3 diving down, looking at the pictures, getting instructions and getting ready to go down again.

After the session, we felt euphoric. One because we were done and second because it was a fun and exiting experience. Also, she started to show us some images, pointing out some that were great and some that might be not so good. Elke even has her eyes closed a lot in photos on land and it was surprising to see that she actually had her eyes open a lot under water.

It would have been possible to go longer, but it was tiring and the air was a bit colder compared to the water.

The idea that we can do this together was important. We had talked about it and wondered how this would all work and if we can do it. But after all it was much easier than we expected. Because we were a bit excited, as we had never done anything like it before. In the very beginning, we stayed in the shallow part and just did some breathing exercises. We weren’t even aware that she was already taking photos. But I think she just tested out her equipment at that moment. Thanks to her calmness, we could have continued forever. And she never said ‘good’ or ‘bad’ she used words like you did it or finished something. That was very relaxing not to feel judged.

You know how water means a quality of life and is part of us that we don’t want to ever miss.

Being at the water, in the water, on the water, that is our life. Almost irrelevant of the temperature. Almost. But we can also be at the water even when it is cold and ideally inside – swimming and playing in waves. I am not a fan of just standing or wading in water or swimming laps, I rather play in the waves.

I slept really well.It was outstanding. Not really different but after driving home I felt that I had really tried hard and was exhausted. In a good and blissful way. An hour swimming is long and exhausting.

Absolutely recommend this to other survivors. It is something you can compare to your other life experiences and things that increase your quality of life like being in nature. It felt special also because it was so comforting being in the warm water and at the same time you had to focus and put effort and work in to achieve a good result. And the water played a big part in that. And even though we are water-rats (been in the water all our lives) this was definitely something very special.

I didn’t experience anything like it. We just talked about there is an opportunity to get into really warm water at the hospital and that it is being used in therapy like water gymnastics. But never anything like this where you are actually submerged and being photographed is very unique. Plus we didn’t get any educations like this in a class. I never used the pool in the hospital as I didn’t need it.

It was definitely an exciting experience without any anxiety because we felt safe and were always able to get back up easily or into the shallow area.

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