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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