Underwater Transformation About Face Underwater Transformation About Face

Jacqueline – Gestational Trophoblastic Neoplasia Survivor

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«« Please drag the arrows to see before & after underwater transformation »»

My name is Jacqueline Lehr and I was born in Marin County, California. I lived a beautiful life in Northern California but I left home at 18 to live abroad in Bordeaux, France for 1 year working as a nanny before I moved to Los Angeles for film school. I now work as an Underwater Camera Operator for movies, TV shows, music videos and commercials. I’m also very passionate about wildlife cinematography and am pursuing a career that brings me into more natural spaces shooting wildlife and ecosystems in our oceans.

In 2018 I went to the dermatologist for acne and the next day found out I tested positive for HCG, which is the pregnancy hormone. At the time I had an IUD in place, so it was very odd. Fast forward through multiple abortions and many confusing doctors appointments, I was referred to the Oncology center. There I received 1 month of chemo injections, which did nothing to stop the increase of the HCG hormone. We ran multiple tests, I got countless MRI and CT scans, which gave us no answers. I tried many different medications and treatments, either Western or Eastern medicines but we couldn’t find any cancer in my body. Yet the doctors told me it was the only explanation left for what was happening within me. After getting frustrated by not having answers, I left Cedars Sinai hospital in LA and moved over to UCLA where I pretty quickly received the diagnosis of Chemo Resistant GTN (Gestational Trophoblastic Neoplasia). This disease is wildly unknown but essentially I became pregnant, with an IUD, then it turned into a cancerous tumour somewhere in my body. I received this diagnosis less than 1 week into the COVID worldwide lockdown. I was so torn about starting chemotherapy during a pandemic, it didn’t seem like a good idea at all. But eventually in June of 2020 I had a chest port put in and began biweekly chemotherapy and immunotherapy at UCLA. It was a very intense, painful and terrifying process for me and I have had a lot of therapy throughout that time and after to work through the trauma of it all. 8 months later, I stopped chemo as I seemed to be in remission yet still showing an elevated HCG hormone. For years I was monitored via weekly blood tests and exams but in May of 2024 I received the best news I’ve ever heard. My HCG hormone was at zero and I was a normal woman again! Currently I am cancer free and my body is working normally again for the first time in 6 years and I couldn’t be happier!

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

I found Erena and the Underwater Transformation project on Instagram in 2020 when I was undergoing chemotherapy. I admired Erena’s work and the entire message of the project so much. I told myself that once I was cancer free, I would celebrate by getting my portrait taken. As chance would have it, we met before I was cancer free and shot a gorgeous documentary about Erena together and became friends. So once she reached out about me being a part of the project, it was weeks after I found out I was cancer free. So it was all meant to be thanks to the Universe!

What was your plan for the photo shoot?

I came in with zero expectations other than having fun and being myself. I am such a planner and organizer in my work life, so I wanted to approach this shoot in the opposite direction and let it be more playful. There was one pose I really wanted to get though and we absolutely did achieve it and much more!

How was the experience with an underwater portrait session?

Overall my experience was so soothing. Water is a calming and grounding thing for me, so being underwater feels very natural. On the other side, being in front of the camera is very different for me as an underwater camera operator. I’m never in front of the lens. Between arranging my dress, face, arms, legs, etc it was honestly very funny trying to arrange myself in elegant ways in the water. I brought my underwater speaker system to play music and keep me calm, which totally worked. Even Erena said it was nice to have some playful music in the background to calm us and make it fun. I was very happy with my dress because it was so flowy and gorgeous. It helped my mindset that I am a mermaid princess living in an underwater world haha. Between all of that and Erena’s calming presence, I felt very at ease and focused on being playful with the poses.

How was your mood after you finished?

I didn’t expect it but I felt quite emotional! Not only was I beaming ear to ear having spent time in the water having fun with Erena but I was so proud and happy that I actually accomplished this goal. I told myself I would shoot with Erena when I was cancer free and I did just that. I had a very strong sense of pride and joy for the next few days after.

What does WATER mean to you?

Water is my home, it’s where I prefer to be and is where I try and spend as much of my time. Between my work as an underwater camera operator, a scuba diver, a swimmer and beach goer. I always feel incredibly grounded and soothed when I’m near or in the water. It’s my home whether it’s a pool or the deep in the ocean.

Do you think this experience could help overcome your trauma?

Absolutely I feel like the water washed away some of the hurt and trauma of having cancer. To be on the other side of my diagnosis and treatment is a blessing I think about every single day. Having spent time in the water just purely celebrating the fact that I am cancer free was truly a gift and transformative experience. I would jump at the opportunity to do it again.

How did you sleep the night of the photo shoot?

Whenever I’m in the water, I always sleep like a peaceful baby after. For our shoot day, I slept with such a deep sense of joy, pride and internal peace. I felt so accomplished and celebrated that it was easy for me to drift into an easy sleep.

How was Erena working with you?

Erena and I were friends before our shoot which was really helpful because we understood how each other are and how we operate. She was so calming and peaceful throughout the whole process which was helpful for moments when I was tangled up in my dress or knew I made funny faces or poses when I sank down into the water. My advice for anyone doing this project is to buy Erena a coffee and sit with her beforehand to get to know her. She’s an amazing soul and I think getting to know her before the shoot will help you understand her, the process and the goals of the shoot beforehand.

Would you recommend underwater transformation to other survivors or anyone?

I would absolutely recommend going through the underwater transformation process to anyone who’s overcome great trauma of any kind. It’s such a joyful experience to celebrate yourself having overcome something so deeply traumatizing in a beautiful and peaceful situation.

Any advice and awareness of the cancer healing process, support group and protection?

When I was going through my cancer process, I was a part of young adult cancer groups. We would meet on video calls throughout the pandemic and it was extremely helpful for me to talk about cancer with other young people such as myself. From losing my hair, to the aches and pains and trauma of chemotherapy, it really helped me to know that I was never alone.

What’s your dream?

In the grand scheme of my life, I’d love to help the ocean. I want to photograph environments and the inhabitants within them with science backing up the visuals I’m able to capture. I love and appreciate the support I get from the Hollywood side of filmmaking but my heart lies in the ocean and that is what I’d like to dedicate my life to documenting and protecting. Photographs and visual mediums can reach so far and wide and I want to use that power for the greater good.

Website:  https://jacquelinelehr.com/
Instagram: @jacquelineunderwater

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