Underwater Transformation About Face Underwater Transformation About Face

Hans – Stomach cancer survivor

<< Please drag the arrows to see before & after underwater transformation >>

My name is Hans Rueffert, 52, born in Atlanta, GA and raised (and currently live) in Jasper, GA. I‘m a professional chef/restaurateur by trade, but spend most of my time now involved in patient advocacy, teaching cooking/nutrition classes, and being a full-time Dad to my 3 children.

I was diagnosed with stage 3B Gastric-Esophajeal cancer in 2005, and over the course of nearly 20 surgeries, have had my stomach, esophagus, gall bladder, two sections of ribs, and several feet of intestines removed. While I‘ve had many challenges, I am currently cancer free.

What inspired you to be involved in the Underwater Transformation Project?

I was originally scheduled to participate in the Underwater Transformation Project over a decade ago, but ended up in the hospital. I passed my scheduled session to my friend and fellow gastric cancer survivor Steve Melen, with the intent that we would eventually find a time to setup another session. I’m proud to see how far the UTP has come in that time, and excited to have stayed in contact with Erena.

What were your plans for the photo shoot?

After so many surgeries, my relationship with my physical form is somewhat of a love/hate equation: I‘m proud that my body is still moving forward, but embarrassed at times by my skeletal appearance. My goal was to simply be „comfortable“, both physically and mentally. The entire experience was empowering, invigorating, yet altogether peaceful; I thoroughly enjoyed it

How was the experience with an underwater portrait session?

I used to be a strong swimmer, but the shock of cold water is immensely painful to me now. The heated pool gave me a rare feeling of stasis, the pressure on my frame instantly relaxed, my nerve damage temporarily abated. It was a very physical session, and when our time was done, I was fairly exhausted. Because it had been some time since I‘d “played“ in a pool, I had to re-learn how to calm my breathing, allow myself to drift to the bottom of the pool without giving power to the need for my next breath of air. The first 15-20 minutes were a bit of a learning curve, but once you adjust, it‘s a beautiful feeling.

How was your mood after you finished?

I felt good, both in muscle and in spirit. It was almost like the endorphin “high“ you get after winning a tough tennis match. I was very aware of my breathing, pulling each breath in and releasing it with intention and purpose. I was tired, but in the best possible way.

What does WATER mean to you?

Like many folks raised in the 1970‘s & 80‘s, I grew up watching Jaques Cousteau on PBS, utterly fascinated by the underwater world. My father and I spent time together fishing, snorkeling, and “creek mucking“ knee-deep in the mountain streams near our home in North Georgia. I‘ve also been a lifelong aquarium hobbyist, and I‘m procrastinating cleaning my current aquarium right now by answering these questions ????

Do you think this experience could help overcome your trauma?

Absolutely! Removing yourself from your “normal” environment is almost like hitting a RESET button; it’s a paradigm shift. Sometimes, a change of environment creates a profound change of perspective, which is exactly what I experienced. Would I do it again? Absolutely!

How did you sleep the night of the photo shoot?

I slept incredibly well! The session was a full-body experience, and I was out as soon as my head hit the pillows.

How was Erena working with you?

I cannot imagine the whole process could have been any better unless mermaids were on hand to assist. Erena was a great coach and facilitator, and the 90 minutes went by in a flash.

Would you recommend underwater transformation to other survivors or anyone?

I would absolutely recommend the Underwater Transformation Project to anyone adjusting to their “New Normal” in life. It’s a great way to soften the edge of the often sharp corners in life, and helps you see yourself in a totally new light.

What’s your dream?

My dream/hope is that the scars that I carry will one day be obsolete as newer, less invasive surgeries are developed and perfected. One day, someone will see these pictures as a glimpse of a time gone by; one with less cancer, and one with less pain.

You can find me at www.hanscooks.com and I’m on most social media as: Hanscooks

I’m also a founding board member of the Gastric Cancer Foundation.

Gesundheit…be well

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