Archive for July 2013

Week 2 – Finding Beauty Shoot: 4 haircut extravaganza!

July 25th, 9 days after 1st chemo treatment.

Finding Beauty -in cancer. Fabulous hair cut photo shoot! Let the recreation begin! Thank you to: Photography Michael Schoenholtz, Videography Lloyd Lemmermann, Hair stylist Tamara Hansen of Oranjstudio Make up artistry by Kirstie Rall /Wright Thank you for orange dress from YO VINTAGE!

This was simply an amazing night for me. Thank you to all the creatives and family that came together that night.  What could have been a really traumatic experience, of cutting off my hair before it all falls out the following week, became a joyful, beautiful evening celebrating and laughing with my friends.  I’m 5 days past this now, today is my next chemo treatment, and as predicted my pixie is beginning to fall out.  I cry and laugh as it comes away in my hands.  This is the part that scares me and it’s starting to happen now.  I hope I am able to experience it as an experience without adding too much to what it means about me or how the next few months will go.  I’m scared but hopeful and having the project helps me refocus my thoughts toward creation and fun.

Week 2 – Self Portrait

This is from the week after the 1st Chemo treatment on July 25th.  This is right before the big haircut shoot.  Each week I’ll photograph myself from the waist up to document the progression of treatment on my body.  Just however I look.  I forgot to take my jewelry off this week.  Red lipstick in honor of my grandmother, girlfriends and beauty.  Note the bandaid from the port placement surgery the previous week.  At the time of the photo I’m about 9 days out from the 1st treatment and feeling pretty good aside from a bit of nausea and fatigue. I’m able to stay up past 8pm and this night was pure magic with the haircut photo shoot and family in the studio.



Week 1 – Self Portrait

Each week I’ll do a self portrait showing exactly how my body looks with nothing aside from red lipstick in honor of my grandmother, girlfriends and beauty.  This is from the first week I started chemo, including the port placement surgery the day prior.  I’m likely just coming off of being high as a kite on Valium which was controlling the pain here.  I felt nausea, fatigue, bone and port placement surgery pain on this day.  The beauty of the day was simply going into my photography studio for an hour.  I love my studio and the fellow creatives in the Towne Storage Building.


Week 0, Finding Beauty Shoot: “Before Nudes” by Photographers Joni Kabana and Bill Purcell


Week 0, “Before Nudes” by Photographers Joni Kabana and Bill Purcell

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Photography by Joni Kabana, Photography of photographer Joni Kabana by Bill Purcell, Hair by Tamara Dayton of Oranjstudio Make up artistry by Terresa Clark.

One of my favorite human beings is my friend, mentor and photographer Joni Kabana.  Joni has the hub of creative people, projects and energy, and my world in this arena often overlaps with her.  I feel lucky beyond words to have met her nearly 8 years ago when I left my career at The Art Institute of Portland to go back out on my own as a creative.  At the time I was torn between photography and painting and looking for studio space to sublet and explore.  Joni encouraged me to move into her small studio and really dive into photography.  She gave me the push and support I needed to launch a new business by sharing with me how she had done it just two years prior.  I’m not sure I would be a professional now without that crucial intersection of colliding with her powerfully loving force.

When I asked Joni to photograph me for the “Before” images for the “Finding Beauty –in cancer” project she immediately said yes.  The problem was finding an hour in her incredibly busy schedule to make that happen prior to my starting chemotherapy on July 15.  In her usual engaging fashion, Joni was able to incorporate me into a huge 2-day fashion shoot she was doing with a studio full of designers and artists.  She rallied them around my project and both the hair stylist and make up artist volunteered to add me to the shoot on their own time.  I got to sit and watch Joni work her fashion magic with the young gorgeous models then step into the lights myself.  Our friend, Bill Purcell, was assisting her that day and when I handed him my Canon 5D and asked him to photograph Joni photographing me he didn’t hesitate.  I forgot he shoots Nikon and everything would be completely backwards for him.  I also forgot that he would have no light and this was a very complicated task.  I expected a couple snapshots and instead I got back some amazingly creative images like the ones where he framed me through the triangle of Joni’s arm.  The entire experience of being photographed naked, my first time, was very liberating.  I had never considered doing a shoot like this before, no less putting them out there in the world.  However, along with the diagnosis of cancer, I felt a need to document my body.  How it looks now and has looked for the past few years and the process of change it will go through now with chemotherapy, surgery, reconstruction and radiation.  It’s suddenly important to remember what I’ve always taken for granted.  I’m no longer shy.  My body is no longer something only I or an intimate partner sees.  Many many doctors have looked at my breasts now.  Many more will.  They will look, touch, poison, remove, rebuild and radiate them now.  The body I have will no longer be the same very soon.  Bionic, perhaps!  Better, maybe.  Not the same however and I somehow need to watch and show the transition as I’ve never witnessed it in another woman.

I feel exhausted, beautiful, privileged and indulged by the end.  Joni cries at some point during the shoot.  Walks straight up to me and lays her hands on my breasts.  It seems the most natural thing in the world to do.  Not sexual, but an acknowledgement that there they are, a part of me that will transition.  She cries and then I cry and then we continue the shoot.   I’m very grateful for these images by her.  Thank you Joni Kabana and Bill Purcell.



Photographer Joni Kabana above

Photographer Bill Purcell below



Week 0 – Self Portrait

Week 0 – Self Portrait

Each week through the project I will post a raw self portrait regardless of how I feel.  Just however I actually look each week.  With or without hair, breasts.  No makeup except for red lipstick in honor of my grandmother, girlfriends and beauty.  I hope to show the transition of my body as well as the contract between the canvas and the recreation which will happen every other week in collaboration with other creatives.

This is where it all begins.


Week 0 – 24-Hour Rendezvous

Week 0 –  24-Hour Rendezvous

It’s the 4th of July.  Life is both more beautiful and terrifying than before. Two weeks ago today I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Three hours before that I met the man of my dreams.  It’s nearly 100 degrees outside and I’m sitting on the lawn at the Waterfront Blues Festival in downtown Portland thinking about all of it.  I laugh, cry, sing, drink wine…  When I heard the words cancer, over the phone from my doctor, I thought of how satisfied I was with my life; my adult step-sons, family, friends, the places I’ve traveled, the way I’ve lived full out.  Then I cried.  I cried thinking I may miss the possibile “future” with this amazing man.  I know, a strange thing to cry over considering we just met and I have had a life full of love already, but I did.

We sit in the tall grasses at the Oregon coast.  Mid-July now in jeans, sweatshirt and scarf.  A 24-hour get away to escape and yet be present.  We flew here in his plane via Packard, Washington, where we stopped near the glacial river for lunch.  He whisked me away because he could and I wanted to be.  The gorgeous Cascade Range, we can see 5 mountains. The devastated side of Mt. St. Helens is just 10 miles from our flight path.  We talk of the day she blew 30 years ago.  We were both in 4th grade, but my world went dark that day, while his on the east coast was unaffected.  I wonder how connected we are right now, if the affects of this new volcano will be the same.  I try to stop thinking about the future and be in the moment.  The moment is where we’ve lived this last month or so.  It’s been an extraordinary way to get to know someone.  I’m grateful and wonderfully distracted.  I’m thankful to have this strong, handsome, 6’3” man to laugh with and spend hours in the arms of.

My long red locks blow across my face and into Archer’s.  My metallic red toenails peek up through the warm sand.  The miniature sand dunes, just 2 feet high, reflect and absorb the late afternoon light.  We imagine them from a new perspective.  The entire Sahara right here as the grains of sand are lifted from the top of the ridge and carried on the air to rise and fall into constantly changing shapes.  Sand, the sum of tiny grains, each having bared witness to the circle of life from volcanic eruption to the journey through rivers, seas and the ultimate simplicity of breakdown.  The wind aligns each piece into a whole of a dune at the angle of repose.  We run our fingers along the bottom and watch as the sand collapses into small waterfalls running upward.  Perhaps Mt St. Helens collapsed like this as well.  We try to find the perfect starting point where the fall will reach all the way to the top and not stop short.  I do a little happy dance when it does and we walk away laughing.

I take out my notebook the next morning and write about the Finding Beauty project.  Boxes of nothingness, some with the words “Empty” then next to them “Recreate, Choose, Possibility” then “extend time in the spaces between.”

He takes my camera and asks if he can photograph me nude in the private forest where we’ve parked the plane and stop to have our lunch.  The ocean surf rises and falls in the distance.  I step out of my clothes and he moves me into the dappled light, then lays me back on a hill of bright green moss.  He puts his hand behind my head and spreads my red hair out against the contrasting color, which he also sees with the same artist’s eye I do.  He photographs my breasts and tells me to move my face until I feel the sun, then he exclaims how beautiful the light crossing through my iris looks.  He helps me up and puts pieces of moss into my hair.  He poses my body like the snapshot of a sculpture from the art museum he sent to me as a text the week before.  He rotates me slowly to find the right light, composition, moment.  I am the art and not the artist now.  A few minutes before I received a call from the doctor.  The bone scan shows two suspicious areas in my right arm and the MRI shows a possible second tumor.  I need to come back for more testing.  I ask all the questions I can think to then hang up the phone.  He stands in front of me and lifts my arms around him.  I shake before the tears come and he supports my weight.  I see his wet eyes as we move apart and he takes my camera.


Week 2- Finding Beauty- in cancer. Project begins!

Project Blog update:

Weds. July 24, 2013

Chemo wk 2 of 16.  Day 9 of 14 day cycle

“FINDING BEAUTY – in cancer”  A personal project.

Note: there will be some nudity in these upcoming posts.  Please view with your eyes closed if it bothers you.

My incredibly creative friends (click on name to see their sites) Joni Kabana, Bill Purcell, Lloyd Lemmermann and I did 2 photo shoots before I started chemo.  I will post them soon.  I’ve done one self-portrait since treatment began and will continue to do one waist up raw portrait each week regardless of how I look or feel.  No makeup, no hair.  No breasts at some point in the future then new ones.  Just ‘what is’ every week.   Every other week I hope to collaborate with other creatives to reinvent myself and my look.  Tomorrow will be the first collaborative shoot since treatment and I will have my HAIR CUT OFF!  Likely two or three different styles, the final being a super short pixie cut. It all comes out next week anyhow.  Hair stylist Tamara Dayton, videographer/photographer Lloyd Lemmermann, photographer Michael Schoenholtz  and makeup by the fabulous artist Kirstie Wright are coming to the studio tomorrow evening to play with my first new look(s).  Put on your red lipstick & drink a toast around 5:30PM.  I’ll post photos for you soon. I’m grateful to have a project to focus my mind on, as it is really the only work I’ve been able to do for two weeks. I have one professional family photography session on Friday.  I’m looking forward to it, as it will be the end of my chemo cycle and I think I’ll feel well.  Based on this first two week example, I hope I will be able to work with my client every other week between treatments although the fatigue problems accumulate as the treatments progress.  I had no physical balance, strength or high energy for photographing children last week and had to postpone all of my sessions although I’m feeling more alive now.  One-on-one business headshots are more my speed until I get my feet under me again this month.  If you need them or know anyone who does, now is the time.  Obviously, I am self-employed and my only means of support so I have to keep working part time.  Kimberli

Week 1- The chemo party everyone’s talking about.

Blog Update

Weds. July 24, 2013

Chemo wk 2 of 16.  Day 9 of 14 day cycle

It’s Day 9 of my first chemo cycle, which will happen every other Tuesday for 16 weeks.  For the past three days I’ve felt alive and awake again.  Prior to that I can best describe my experience as living in a fog.

I awake each day and think, “It’s a new day. I want to ride my bicycle, I want to create something beautiful.”  I then walk to the sink, wash my face and begin to feel the dizziness and nausea that accompanies me now.  I remind myself that “I am not sick,” but am allowing my body to be poisoned by chemotherapy and many drugs to hold the side effects at bay and that is reason I feel the way I do.  I am not sick AND the means to the end of being a healthy person, chemotherapy, is making me feel sick right now.  And it will pass and I will be better again.  I think all of these positive things then sometimes just throw a middle finger up in the air and want to barf.

Chemo is not the party everyone talks about.  I must have received the wrong invitation! The cocktails are not nearly as tasty as they should be. The hot doctors are mostly female and, although cute, not my thing. Yes, the chemo chairs are comfy and they have little movie devices to pass the time while your IV slowly floods your body with first anti-nausea, then steroids, then poison then an additional bag of poison as a bonus round. They start the party off with smiles and reassurance, but then access the little port, which was surgically placed in your chest and was about to heal nicely, with a sticky needle to feed you the concoction.  You are official ‘hooked in.’  I expect to be beamed up at some point during the process.  I’m looking forward to meeting Scotty.

My mother came to town for the first week, last week.  Thank heavens. I certainly would have either starved to death or fallen down my staircase without her saying, “Get away from those stairs” every time I went down the hallway.  She really did make life much easier. Even my cat was happier to have someone around 24/7 for a few days. My birth mother ran errands and did a great job helping and not hovering. None of us know what we are supposed to do or what our place is right now.  My maternal birth grandmother once said, when I asked what they were feeling when I was placed for adoption, “We were just stumbling around trying to hold one another up.”  I think that’s how we all felt last week as well.  What’s needed? What’s too much?  What’s not enough?  I have no clue, and we are just all figuring it out together.  Whatever anyone does or doesn’t do right now is perfect.  There is no right way to be with this.  Just be with it if you can and maybe we’ll find a pattern or rhythm.  It has been important to laugh and to not talk about cancer all the time.  To ask myself repeatedly, “Is this important right now? Does it add beauty or joy?” If it’s not one of those 3 things I let it go.  There are other days for the rest when my energy is so limited.  A sudden shift of priorities is good for me, and I appreciate the opportunity to practice.  I truly appreciate all the funny Facebook messages you sent and the posting of red lipstick photos which made me laugh and kept me going last week!  That same grandma, the one I met when I reunited with my biological maternal family at age 18, was a feisty redhead until she passed away at age 98 just two years ago, used to say, “Put your lipstick on.  You’ll feel better.” I have adopted that as my motto, adding “red lipstick” as I wondered if after losing my hair, and temporarily my breasts, if red lipstick will actually make me feel better or even beautiful.  I’m trying to get my head around that possibility.

Follow up “Celebration of Boobs & Hair” a party!

July 15, 2013 Facebook Post after  “Celebration of Boobs & Hair” party.

Thanks to all who gathered in my back yard very last minute this weekend.  Apologies to good friends who didn’t get the word or who have left messags that have been unanswered.  “Put your red lipstick on.  You’ll feel better,” as my grandmother said during tough times.   This morning I begin 4 months of chemotherapy, then surgery, reconstruction and radiation. I was very recently diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer.  It did not show on a mammogram. I felt pain and asked for more testing.  First, know that I have a treatable form of cancer. I will be okay!  Of course, I will do what I do and create an art project in the form of a photo book and gallery show called, “Finding Beauty – in Cancer.” I plan to collaborate with other creatives around PDX and perhaps beyond.  Makeup and hair stylists, photographers, fashion designers and set builders to recreate myself every 2 weeks during the process.  My friend is building a website where you can check in on the project, my personal progress and any needs, if you want.  URL to come.  I have no idea yet what I will need, but I do appreciate all the love that has already flowed my way. I love you right back.  I feel supported by fabulous friends and family and well loved as I begin this journey so many others in the world have taken before me.  I plan to continue to work at my photography studio as much as I can.  I’m challenging myself to live fully within whatever set of limits the treatments may bring.  I hear it’s all a real party!  The objective is to find beauty between the rough spots – when I feel like hell and am no longer a redhead – not just at the end of many months with a successful treatment.  What will it be like to recreate myself from a blank canvas?  How many ways can that be done?  I may need you to inspire me on certain days and call on you.  Ultimately, I hope this book project not only helps me process my way through cancer but perhaps leads to returned inspiration as well.

Please live and love full out!!  I’ve got your back.



The Beginning – Celebration of Boobs & Hair – a party

EMAIL SENT On Jul 11, 2013, at 7:02 AM, Kimberli Ransom wrote:

This email is to my “core”, my close friends and family, in Portland and beyond.  Regardless of when I saw you last or how recently you entered my life.  You are my favorites!  I’m inviting you to two events 1) a party Friday night 2) my very personal project “Finding Beauty – in cancer”

Please reply personally.  Please excuse the early morning typos.  Many things are no longer as important as they once were.

PARTY:  An impromptu gathering in my backyard to celebrate – my boobs and red tresses!  Feel free to run your hands through my locks or cop a quick feel.  Everything changes and so shall these pieces of me.   Drop in at any point after 6pm, bring wine and something for the grill, if you want.  Kids and and any guests are welcome.  Very informal. Come even for 5 minutes if you can.  I want to see you.  I know some of you are out of town and can’t come.  No worries, I wanted to invite you anyhow.

“Finding Beauty – in cancer”  This will be my context for the next several months.  I want you to participate in whatever form is best for you, even if that’s not at all.  I understand that we are there for one another in very different ways and I can also feel love from a distance.  Know that I do not expect anything, and yet I am also incredibly moved by your offers to be with me and help.  It’s funny, I don’t know what I might need at this point but know I will want you there.   Right now the most important thing is just to be present and connected with you.  I know I haven’t been able to call or meet with many of you since being diagnosed with breast cancer.  Know that I love you and have just been doing and being whatever is needed to move myself through this process the best way I can without getting overwhelmed and allowing myself to fully enjoy feeling healthy and expressive.  It’s a very strange thing.  It’s a surreal and yet very real experience to feel the best you’ve ever felt in your life knowing that very shortly you will feel like hell.  Interesting to think about how you would live – for all of us, not just me.

So here’s the update:  2.5 weeks ago I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in one breast and lymph node.  First, understand, I am much more likely to die from you baking me a delicious, but dairy-filled, casserole than from this cancer.  I have a very treatable form of cancer and, due to my age, we will treat it with the most aggressive technologies – I also have the bonus therapies of art, laughter and love.  I have brilliant friends, family and clients, you included, who are helping me figure out the best course.  So far the nuts and bolts look like this – I begin chemo prep this coming Monday 7/15 and start on Tuesday 7/16. It will be every other Tuesday for 16 weeks.  I may be sick for a few days then up and okay again until the next treatment.  I’ll have about a month of recovery then surgery and reconstruction, more recovery, then radiation.


I request that you all stay with me in a mental place of peace, vitality and wholeness during the process.  I am not a cancer “victim” and I am not dying, I am living.  I am choosing to accept and embrace the cancer in my body.  Sometimes I will tell you that it fucking sucks and that I was insane creating a project.  Remind me of my larger thinking here.  I am not spending time asking “why me.”  The only reason is the one I make up, and I haven’t done that yet.  I have glimpses of seeing that I’m even lucky.  I’m learning, growing, loving at such a rapid rate right now.  Intense would be the word for my living recently.   I’ve never been more present.   Life is more vibrantly beautiful and terrifying than before.  Mostly it is beautiful.  I have much love and life left to live.  Yet, I am happy with where and who I am in life.  My boys are graduated solid and well loved.  I’m grateful to have each of you.  What a way to live today.

So now I will experience what people all over the world experience.  Everywhere people live with, die from and fear cancer.  I am no different from every one else on the planet in my vulnerability to it.  I am, however, an artist, and can document and share my experience in a way others cannot.  It will help me process and stay connected to my creative friends.  Maybe it will be interesting or helpful to someone else someday.  Perhaps it will be a photo book or gallery show.  Maybe huge, maybe tiny.  I create. That’s what I have to do.  Fibromyalgia brought out painting, 2 CDs and a new career.  Who knows what cancer will bring?

I may feel like hell and look sick during the process, yet I need to you to view me as healthy and whole that day.  I need to get out of my house and play.  I will want to ride my bike through Portland or around the block.  I want another night of dancing until 3AM soon – or maybe just dancing for 15 minutes.  I want starlit summer docks and concerts in the park or in my own backyard under the patio lights and stereo.  I want to work in my studio every day or on my good days.  Whatever it may be, the objective is to live to the fullest capacity possible during any given day. I want to find the beauty in the spaces between the rough spots.  Those measures of success will change depending on the day.  I need to be okay with that and not compare it to how I think my life should have been had I not had cancer.  I learned that at year 5 of 7 with Fibromyalgia in my twenties.  I’m wiser now and know these things going in this new experience.  My cancer has a foreseeable ending.  May the journey with and through it be as interesting and beautiful as we can make it.

What to create?    I’m both interested and scared of the treatments to come.  Like most women I think I’m most afraid of losing my hair.  I know there are wigs and hats and rockin’ being bald, yet I’m unsure how I will be with it.  My hair has been such a part of my identity. Yet I know I am not my hair.  I cried when I realized I may lose my eyebrows.   Funny thing to cry over, I know, and yet I did.  I wonder what it will be like to have a blank slate.  Will I want to recreate the person I know myself to be again or design anew?  And what if I design a new look between each chemo treatment together with my artist friends and document that?  Is that my book project?  How will others respond?  How will I feel? What will be my own emotional response, or will I even want to play that game?   Will others see me as a chemo patient or as a platinum blond?  Will my grandmother’s red lipstick pull me though this one, too?  “Put on your lipstick, you’ll feel better,” she always said.  Will it really make me feel better?  It didn’t in my 20s.  Can I feel beautiful and sexy with nothing but the basics of my body and red lips?  I will photograph that image each week and see.  I want the answer to be yes, but I honestly don’t know.

I know this is just part of my whole story, and yet I’m boring myself telling it as soon as it’s written.  I will update you personally, if I can, as we talk.  If not, it will be here where I can write it just once for everyone.  I can also post what I may need and if you want you can help in whatever way works for you.  There will be some kind of fundraiser and donation place, eventually.  Everything you’ve done and offered already has been perfect.  I don’t have any real idea how my body will respond to treatment or how it will all come together.  I appreciate you just being there to figure it out with me.  Sometimes I want to talk about the cancer and my emotions and other times I don’t.  Feel free to ask at any time, it’s always fine.  I’m strong and can tell you if I prefer to talk about something else.  One thing, I would ask that you not share other cancer stories with me right now.  I know we all know someone who has it or had it and use that to empathize, comfort and connect.  I’ve done it, too.  Right now, however, I get overwhelmed with other people’s cancer stories.  If you feel strongly that there is someone I should speak to direct about an extraordinary way they handled their cancer, please email that to me.  I will put it in my folder for later and contact them.  I’ll have more space to process the stories of other people soon, I’m sure.

I love you all.  Thank you for being my favorites!!

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