Archive for September 2013

Week 12 Poem 6 by Ken Arnold

Poem 6 by Ken Arnold


Gobsmacked by peacocks,

like a western sunset,

the flourishing of what’s


hidden. Who knew

those colors were there,

that the essence of everything


is fashion, the splendor

of feathers and purple

skin, diaphany


of the spheres: you

can hear her polyphonic

hues, and diaphonous


regard: she looks through

you and everything

you’ve carried, none of which


you need. Stop here,

as she has stopped, as time

has stopped, effusively.


Ken Arnold

Because It’s Love, my new book of love poems, is now available from

Finishing Line Press:

read a new poem every Monday at

and the long poem in progress, Chemo Brain, at

Week 11- Self Portraits


Self Portrait Trio Week 11

Self Portrait Trio Week 11

Week 9 & 10 Self Portraits







Priorities/My brother’s addiction & The girl with noise in her head.

Written on Week 4  August 11, 2013

Priorities shift when you hear you have cancer.  What’s important, what’s not. How you spend your time and with whom.  Close friends and family get your attention.  People you like.  It becomes simple.  It’s amazing how much is not important, doesn’t actually matter. However, sometime a complete stranger becomes important.  I’m surprised by the utter connection I feel to everyone and questions I have about their lives.  They are questions about my own life, perhaps.  The difference is I sometimes make time to ask now.  I slow down and see the people I’m walking past.  At least on the good days when I have energy.  On the bad days I’m more directional and see mostly myself and look for the shortest way home.

A woman younger than me sits on the concrete slab in the empty parking structure pay station where I feed my visa into a machine.  Her dirty blond hair is clean but unruly.  Her shoes sit to her side, her feet are black.  She pulls a hand mirror out of one of many plastic bags, wets her index finger in her mouth and tries to wipe away the mascara that has smudged under her eyes.  She’s been crying.  She’s a junky.  I’m tired, having just left an event early to go home to nap, but as I watch her from the corner of my eye I wonder who she is and how she got to the street.  Suddenly nothing is more important than talking to the woman I would normally walk past and avoid.  “Hello,” I say as she looks up at me standing over her.  “Why are you out here?” I ask.  Blunt, I know, but that’s my question.  “I’m an addict and my family won’t take me in any longer,” she replies just as matter of fact.  My heart sinks in recognition.  Would he say this?  Blame us?  I immediately sit down next to her and take my shoes off.  My feet are also dirty.  She stares at me now.  She’s sizing me up. “Um, I may be like your family and you may be like one of my older brothers.  Can we talk?” I ask.  I ask her to tell me about her family, her path, her life addicted to heroine.  I’m torn between being fully present and on alert that I’m making myself vulnerable by just being with her.  Being present wins out.  I’m listening and she continues to talk.  Her narrative rambles and yet there’s wisdom and truth in the chaos.  She misses her daughter.  I know my brother misses his, too.  I try to understand how a drug can become more important than a child.  How it can skew a mind.  She tells me there’s nothing that sets her free and takes away the noise in her head like the drug does.  Nothing.  I start to see the evidence of her noise and the relief she must feel.  She was clean for six years after prison, but doesn’t want to get clean again.  She doesn’t want to be saved and I’m not trying to save her.  He recently said the same thing to me.  He doesn’t want rehab or a lawyer, we don’t understand him, have kicked him to the curb because we no longer give him money and instead offer rehab….  I know these are the ramblings of a warped mind, meth-induced reality, but I can’t help but wonder how he, or she, could fall so far from what is reality.  To be in a place where everyone else is wrong and only their skewed visions and addictions are the truth.  This isn’t the brother my family once knew, yet it is our current version of him. We love and miss him.

A policeman comes.  He looks at her, then me, then at her. He’s confused.  “You can’t sit here, you know,” he says to her.  She pretends she doesn’t know and makes an excuse.  “Can we stay here for five minutes and talk?” I ask him.  He’s even more confused now.  “Yes,” he says and walks away.  “He was much nicer than they normally are,” she says.  I imagine her life, being asked to leave everywhere she sits. Sitting places no one else sits.  Where do you sit when you don’t have a place?  Under the Burnside Bridge outside of my photography studio, I suppose.  We ask them to leave there, as well.  It’s not good for business, or our safety, you know.  I realize I wouldn’t talk to her there.

I tell her I have breast cancer.  I see both shock and immediate acceptance in a flash of her eyes.  We talk about our bucket lists.  She tells me she has something to say to the world.  She’s waiting for a sugar daddy so she can put it on billboards.  I ask her what it is she would tell everyone.  She isn’t sure, but it would be big and meaningful and the billboards would allow everyone to see it.  It would really reach people that way.  Noise in her head.  I think she’s crazy, and yet I wonder how often we all think that way.  Someone or something is going to sweep us off our feet and then we are going to do something big.  Say something important that moves people.  Have an impact.  Make a difference.  We’re just waiting until that time to figure out what that really is.  She tells me her real name is Diane, but everyone on the street calls her Sunshine.  When I get up to leave she asks me not for money, as I expected, but for a hug.  I ask if I can take her picture with my phone and she’s embarrassed, asks if it’s okay if she looks away.  “Yes, I just want it to remember you,” I say.



Week 8 – Peacock SHOOT Behind the Scenes

A little look behind the scenes at the making of the Peacock Shoot with body-painter Matt Huntley and photographer Frank DeSantis.    See writing by Matt below.

Peacock Shoot Behind the Scenes

Peacock Shoot Behind the Scenes

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a photographer (Frank Desantis), who asked if I’d be willing to work on a project with him and his friend… A friend who is fighting breast cancer. After having my own cancer demons in my past, I wanted in, and was honored to be included in such a project.

Her name is Kimberli Ransom, of Kimberli Ransom Photography, and she like many before her, is kicking the crap out of a horrible illness. And she’s doing it in style, which a smile on her face.

I talked with Kimberli and the photographer, over Facebook, leading up to the shoot. A concept of a peacock, was picked, and the day and time set. Due to energy levels of Kimberli, I had to try and get done fairly quickly… Those of you who have watched or helped someone battle cancer know exactly what I’m talking about.

Unlike many, Kimberli is doing something I’ve never seen… she, in her own words, “is finding beauty in cancer”.

I met with Kimberli and Frank one weekend morning at Kimberli’s studio. The first thing I noticed about Kimberli was how tall she is. The second thing was how bald she was. And the third was the smile she had. There was an air of determination about this woman, a fighting spirit, with a calm soft-spoken demeanor.

Unlike many models that stand in front of me, there was almost no hesitation from Kimberli to disrobe and be painted.. “After the poking and prodding I’ve gone through, I’m not going to be shy about my body”, was what she said to me.

We took breaks when needed, and I altered the design a bit so I could finish earlier. The painting took a few hours, and I don’t remember her complaining once. As tired as I knew her to be, I don’t remember Kimberli ever faltering in her resolve to get this photo shoot finished.

It was, inspiring. No matter what crap you have in your life, there is someone out there who no only has more / worse… but is handling theirs with much more strength and dignity.

This vile creature that has taken the lives of so many loved ones (mine included) is going to lose. Kimberli will win because she is a beautiful soul who is fighting back, and seeing the wonder of life in every single moment of every single day.

I will only share one photo of that day on Facebook, and ask that if you you want to see the rest of the shots, you follow the link below, and travel to Kimberli’s blog page, and maybe give her some encouragement… If you are the type to pray, then say a prayer… if you’re one to give good thoughts, please do so.

Life… is about finding beauty in every day. Sometimes we forget this. I’m glad I was reminded.




Week 8 – Peacock SHOOT

Week 8 – Peacock SHOOT  9/07/13

Frank DeSantis – Photographer  Facebook Page  Website

Matt Huntley – Body Painter Facebook Page  Website



Written by Frank DeSantis – Photographer

Having just gone through this hellish disease myself, thoughts of flying became a means of escape. It was a way for me to reach beyond the pain and anguish I was going through. It wasn’t until I was through it all that I realized my flight was as the mythological bird, the phoenix. A symbol of birth/rebirth.

My thought was that Kimberli could find a strength in that symbol. Soaring high above the dangers she faces and to fly towards a rebirthing of her spirit and sense of self.

The peacock most resembles the traditional mythological description of the phoenix. It was only fitting that we use that as our basis for this shoot. And how crazy was it that almost a year ago I had attached a bunch of peacock feathers to a very large Chinese fan. I had tried to use it but found it too big to use in my studio, but it sure seems to work for this photo shoot with Kimberli. And so does Matt’s body painting which made the whole project come to life.

And so I had her start out just kneeling there in front of the fan, but from behind the lens she actually looked like a bird. I asked her to ‘fly.’ I asked her to imagine herself flying through the air. Her sinewy figure enhanced her movements, and I believe I caught some beautiful images of her flight.   Frank DeSantis

Written by Kimberli Ransom

I love that Frank and I had different interpretations of the same concept.  This is what the project is about.  Creative minds coming together.  This shoot was complicated.  I knew I wanted to work with photographer Frank DeSantis.  We had become friends over the past few years when we both had studios in the Towne Storage Building.  Frank had his own bout with cancer last year, moved out of the building and I miss him.  I immediately said yes when he volunteered for Finding Beauty in Cancer.  I knew his camera would capture more than just the image he created.  I asked him about finding a body painter and he introduced me to Matt Huntley via Facebook.  Matt’s website demonstrated his extraordinary talent and huge range. Knowing I had two extremely talented artists I opened up the subject matter to other creatives and asked a few people for their thoughts on a concept.  The input on how I could be painted was broad and an interesting process in itself. I plan to use some of the ideas in later shoots.  Ultimately, we bounced ideas around via email, but as we were getting closer to shoot date there was no final decision.  Nothing seemed quite right to me.  My friend and the editor of Portland Family Magazine, Janna Lopez, invited me to her first photography show around the same time.  The main image from her show was a gorgeous photograph of a peacock.  In it I saw beauty, grace, colors I love, but also limitation.   Peacocks can only fly short distances.  I felt that Matt could make me as beautiful as a peacock but I would still feel the limitation of fatigue and side effects from chemo.  I was shaking by the end of the shoot.  Shaking, but happy.

Facebook Edit. Peacock Shoot

Facebook Edit. Peacock Shoot


Week 9, Medical Update & drugs

Medical Update

Week 9,  recovery week after 5th chemo.

I feel tired.  Tired and in pain this past week.  I’ve started my new chemo drug Taxol. This will be the drug of choice for the remaining 3 treatments.  The symptoms are different, maybe somewhat better, maybe not.  I have pain throughout my body now.  It’s more than an ache and less than terrible.  It feels just like fibromyalgia pain did.  All over and intense at time. The nausea is less than with the A/C drugs, but still enough to need meds. The big bonus is not having to take steroid pills for 3-5 days after the treatment. They give it to me in the cocktail but it didn’t make me totally crazy this time. Semi-crazy.  Lots of tears.  Lot of fatigue.  Lots of pain.  Unfortunately, the first level of treatment for pain, beyond over the counter drugs that do not help, are steroids.  No! The mouth sores that kept me from eating or drinking regularly last week are healing after antibiotics.  They caused the worse pain I’ve had so far.  It hurt to talk, drink water and forget eating without numbing my entire mouth.  I’m on day 7 now and have not been able to work more than a couple of hours.  No energy, no stability (I fell down the stairs last night, but did not get hurt).  I’m having my suddenly-low blood pressure checked out tomorrow and have more IV fluids scheduled.  That may be another new piece of my treatment. Twice a week it’s back to the clinic for 2 hours of fluids just to stay hydrated so I can recovery in time for the next treatment.  Not the most fun I’ve had…   Not the worst time I’ve had – but close.

The photo below is of one week’s worth of medication and supplements.  I feel like I eat in order to take these pills every few hours.  The boxes do not include the 2 additional nausea medications I take every 6 and 8 hours, nor the various powders and potions from the naturopath that I mix into water.  I’m hoping to cut back the nausea medication with this new round of Taxol.  So far, it’s better than the A/C treatments!  Good news.

FYI- You may have your own opinion on taking so many pills and what you would do instead.   That’s great.  I’m not interested in ranting emails about miracle cures and diets, however. I’ll write a very funny post on the crazy, although well-intended, things strangers have sent me in the name of ‘curing my cancer.”  People who say, “If you’re serious about curing your cancer….”  as if I’m not already.  This photo is simply to show you what I’m actually doing.  It’s my choice to follow both my MD and ND recommendations in addition to a specific diet and exercise program.  I have faith they will work, but as with any cancer treatment, no one really knows.  There is no cure for breast cancer.  There is remission.  There is not seeing cancer cells too small to detect and calling it cured.  There is living the rest of your life in remission, living with breast cancer, and there is death from breast cancer.   One of these will be my path.  In the meantime, I do what I think is best and learn as I go.



Week 9 – Poem 5 by Ken Arnold

Poem 5 by Ken Arnold

Update:  Ken is still recovering in a nursing home from MRSA virus.  Here’s his latest email and poem.  Thank you Ken.  We are all sending love your way.


Kimberli,  For some reason I’m writing poems in this institution. Poem #5 is below. I find out tomorrow if I can leave here soon and resume chemo. It’s funny to want chemo, but it would be better than being cooped up here. I hope you’re ok after your emergency fluids.

This poem was occasioned by how wonderful your eyes were in some recent photos. I hope you like it.

Sending you much love,



You have to love her eyes,

big gasping beauties

that can haunt you


over time, opened by

some ancient song of cele-

bration, as deep


as fairy tales,

easing out of the inner

dark the light. The light!


That’s what’s in her,

light. You can find her

in the dark, attenuated


as a long-gone memory,

gowned in white,

reverted to myth,


now pinned still

in the camera’s eye.

You’re almost afraid to look,


for she will see you

and see you and you will

fall into her story,


but your heart wants

to be her eyes,

to be seen, to see what she sees.


Because It’s Love is now available from Finishing Line Press:


“When late-life love and illness pounce and collide, they create a zone of tenderness, urgency, and fearless truthfulness. The work in Ken Arnold’s Because It’s Love is almost unbearably courageous, intense, and moving.”–Rachel Hadas, poet and author of The Golden Road, Ache of Appetite, and numerous other books of poetry and prose


read a new poem every Monday at



Week 8 – Halfway through chemo and hesitant

Week 8 – Halfway through chemo and hesitant


Chemo round 4, 2nd week of recovery.

I’m officially halfway through my chemo treatments today.  I begin the next phase and the new drug, Taxol, tomorrow.  I don’t feel ready.  Honestly, I don’t want to go.  I scared to put more and new side effects on top of what I already have.  I did not recover as well from this last round as I have previously.  I did not have four good days at the end of 10 days this time.  I’m hopefully for this last 24 hours.  Although I know 2 more months and then another month of recovery before surgery will seem like nothing in terms of the scope of my life, each day feels very long right now.  3 more months of chemo side effects feels like forever.  And yet, the alternative is far worse so I, like all the others before me, will celebrate this half way mark and march back into chemo tomorrow.  Hook me up to the IV and pump the poison in again to make me feel worse so that my lovely oncologist, Dr, Alison Conlin, will use the phrase “curable cancer” again as she did for the first time during my last treatment.   I wonder what it feels like for those who don’t have curable cancer and are faced with yet another round of chemo that will make them feel like hell knowing they won’t ever recover.  Would I do that to extend my life, but within the context of a lower quality of life?

Truthfully, though I’ve always loved a good party, or in the case this afternoon a sailboat ride if possible after an ‘emergency’ IV for dehydration (I didn’t end up going sailing), I don’t feel much like celebrating my midway victory.  I don’t feel like it’s all downhill from here.  I imagine I would if I felt better.  Instead I feel the side effects.  The fatigue, the continuing nausea, the craziness, tears and anger from the massive dosed of steroids and, worse of all, the new side effect of terribly painful mouth sores.  Perhaps they are 3cm mouth sores from steroids.  I can’t eat or drink without crying from the pain.  I can’t talk or smile without pain, so I don’t talk or smile.  I numb them with a mouth rinse before I try to do any of the before mentioned necessities but the numbness lasts just minutes before the pain takes over.  I’ve disliked other side effects, the worst being the steroid craziness, but this pain is worse than that.  It’s 7:37AM and I’m counting down the minutes to 8:00 to call the doctor again.

The past two weeks were more like how I envisioned going through chemo might be before I did it.  I expected I would be very ill, in bed most of the time, disinterested in food…  I started this projected “Finding Beauty in Cancer” thinking I would use the idea to find the little things that were meaningful and beautiful in my life in the midst of this.  Not beauty in myself, but in what and who was around me.  I was able to practice this original concept over the past two weeks, but found it much harder than expected when I simply felt terrible.  However, there was plenty of beauty.  A three-night trip to Rockaway Beach with an ocean-front hotel room where I watched the ocean waves through my bedroom window.  My mother’s favorite place next is at the seaside and I enjoyed watching her happy as a child despite her concern for me.  We swam in the pool there and she fluttered around like an 8 year old not a 78 year old.  We go to the same seaside knick-knack shop we did when I was a small child and look for seashells to buy.  I want starfish for an upcoming “Under the Sea” photo shoot that is planned where I’ll have an octopus temporarily tattooed around the right side of my body like I envisioned while laying in the MRI machine two months ago.  However, all of the starfish are little, not like the ones I used to buy here.  The owners says he can’t get them any longer.  I wonder if that’s a factor of the starfish getting smaller or demand for exports taking them big ones out of our local market.  I wonder about how the ocean has changed since I was a child.  How there are no full shells on the sand during the low tide.  Only hollowed out crab shells and broken bits of clams.  No whole perfect sand dollars like when I was small child.  We tuck them in our sweatshirt pockets and carry them home as treasures or break the chipped one open fully to find the three little seagulls hiding inside.

Mom and I sit outside of our hotel room, a towel protecting my fragile skin from the sun and watch 3 whales blowing spray.  At first they are close to the shore, directly in front us.   The setting sun shimmers off their skin as they breach slightly beyond the surface.  Every few minutes we see them blow and follow their path as they move quickly to the south and out to see.  It’s amazing how long we can still see the spray.  Blow one, then two, then finally three.

This post to be continued…


Weeks 6, 7, 8 Self Portraits


Self Portrait Week 8 After Chemo session 4

Self Portrait Week 8
After Chemo session 4

Self Portrait Week 7 After Chemo session 4

Self Portrait Week 7
After Chemo session 4

Self Portrait Week 6 After Chemo session 3

Self Portrait Week 6
After Chemo session 3