Please click and drag the white arrows to see my underwater transformation.
My name is Hannah Blair. I’m 40 years old, grew up mostly in Washington State but I’ve lived in California since I was 18.
A month before my 39th birthday I was diagnosed with triple positive breast cancer. It didn’t come as a shock – the tumor was so big that I felt it with my fingers and called the doctor myself. I only had a few moments of fear – everything moved too fast to really process emotions. But there are great medications for triple positive these days – my surgeon said “you’re going to live to be an old lady, but the next year is going to suck.” And it did! I had my first chemo three days before my birthday – they wouldn’t even postpone it long enough for me to celebrate. I spent four months in chemo, then had a single mastectomy, then had 25 rounds of radiation. But this February I had my last treatment and a big 40th birthday party, and now I am “no evidence of disease” – so, working on getting to be an old lady.
I am excited for this shoot! I had a wonderful photo shoot with another friend the day before my surgery – my last day with two breasts. It’s now been a year since surgery and I still feel funny about my body – like it’s not quite mine, and like it’s a little wrong. So I am looking forward to doing something where I feel comfortable being looked at, and maybe even feel beautiful.
I’m a sculptor, so I think I’ll make something to wear in the pool – something that trails or floats or looks somehow different when it’s wet. I made myself a different outfit/costume every time I had to go to the hospital for chemo, so I’m thinking of this as my last chemo outfit.
Before the shoot I was a little nervous – mostly that I was going to do it wrong, or that the sculptures I made were going to look bad, or that I was going to look bad. I knew I was going to get water up my nose, which I hate, but I had decided it was going to be OK, for art….
The experience itself was wonderful – it really felt collaborative, with both of us having ideas and bouncing things off each other. The breathing part was hard for me – my body just does NOT want to go underwater without taking a breath (no dummy, my body). But toward the end I started to get it, and I saw at least one cool photo on the website beforehand where the model had her head above the water, so I figured if I couldn’t get myself down there, maybe we’d still come up with something cool! Erena was calm and thoughtful the whole time – she had a lot of different things to try, creatively and logistically, and I really got the impression of her years of experience with a lot of different people.
The rest of the day after the shoot was pretty lovely too. I had brought two dear friends along as moral support/photo assistants, and afterwards we had lunch at a cafe next to the beach in Pacifica and looked at all the behind-the-scenes photos they had taken. After lunch we crossed the road to the beach and watched some humpback whales feeding. More water magic! I was tired but happy, and thinking a lot of what to do for the next shoot…. I think I would’ve slept wonderfully that night, except that I had a few sips of coffee with dinner…. So instead I stayed up too late writing about it!
I would definitely recommend the experience to friends – and I will. There is one friend in particular who got diagnosed not long after I did – she is a marvelous freaky artist and a tough lady and I would love to see what she’d come up with in the pool….