Photographs Capture Special Time for Two-Time Cancer Survivor | NBC 7 San Diego

Photographs Capture Special Time for Two-Time Cancer Survivor

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    Erena Shimoda
    Scott and Mandy Martinez, photographed by California photographer Erena Shimoda

    A San Diego father-to-be is among the cancer survivors recently photographed underwater by an artist who calls herself the "Underwater Healer."

    At one point, doctors told Scott Martinez that his battles with testicular cancer meant he had just a one percent chance of becoming a father. But now his wife Mandy is due this spring.

    The underwater photographs help capture this amazing time in Scott and Mandy's life, which they call a "ray of light."

    The photography project is the brainchild of Erena Shimoda. The San Francisco-based photographer donates her time and talent to help cancer survivors in their recovery. She hopes the photography sessions help cancer survivors rediscover their beauty, feel freedom and give them courage to try new things.

    "It's like giving a therapy session and helping them discover their beauty, more than just a photo session," Shimoda said.

    "The freedom and lightness of being in water is so liberating and unlike any feeling you have just walking down the street," Mandy Martinez told NBC7.

    Shimonda says the Martinez couple made a great underwater team.

    "Scott was supporting Mandy and helping her out to balance," Shimoda said, "You can see from the images how sweet they are to each other."

    Mandy and Scott's story began in 2006, when they met at a sports bar in Northern California.

    "You never think you are actually going to meet your wife or husband in a bar," Mandy said. "But I just knew right from when I met Scott that I'd marry him."

    And she did, three years later. Something else the couple knew from the beginning? They would need undergo In Vitro Fertilization if they had any hopes of having a child. And even then, the chances of having a baby would be very low.

    "And that's something I had to face," Mandy said. "What if it was just me and him until the end? We really had little to no chance of having children."

    The odds were so low because of Scott's health history. He was shocked to be diagnosed with stage 4 testicular cancer just weeks after his 23rd birthday. He'd put off going to to doctor for months, despite the fact he could barely walk, sit or lay down because the pain.

    "I was an athlete, fit as you could possibly be and young, so what did I have to worry about, right? I had the whole world in front of me," Scott said.

    Scott was in surgery the next day. He underwent rigorous chemotherapy and endured more than a year long recovery process. His urologist talked him into depositing sperm for later use.

    "I was young and angry and didn't care to even take that step," Scott said, "I'm glad I did. I was diagnosed a second time with testicular cancer."

    Doctors told him there was only a two percent chance of that second diagnosis. After another surgery, he's been in remission ever since.

    "Knock on wood, I seriously still think about it pretty much every day," Scott said.

    But now the couple has something else to think about: their baby, expected in May. With only two vials of sperm to work with, they beat the odds and Mandy is now pregnant.

    "I just know he's going to be the best father, especially because he is absolutely not taking this opportunity of being a father for granted," Mandy said.

    They say they're waiting to find out whether they're having a boy or girl, but have names ready for either.

    "We have been dreaming of this baby for years, so names were picked awhile ago, but we aren't sharing! Don't you hate when you say the name and somebody offers their opinion?" Mandy said.

    Shimoda also recently photographed two time breast cancer survivor Juanita Williams in San Diego.

    "I felt so free, happy and relaxed to be under water," Williams told NBC7, "My soul was at peace. Underwater, I was able to find joy."