Week 5 – Poem 2 by Ken Arnold

Week 5

Poem 2  by Ken Arnold

August 14, 2013

Little sleep for me last night after 3rd chemo treatment.  The steroids keep my wired at the same time the fatigue sets in to create a tug of war pull from both directions.  No amount of sleep aid seemed to help so I simply got up and wrote for the blog.  I know my vision will blur, the fatigue and nausea worsen and possilbe pain set in over the next days so I do it when I have energy regardless of the time.  1am and 3:30AM last night.  Ken Arnolds’s 2nd poem in a series called “Finding Beauty in Kimberli’ also helped.  Yesterday we learned that my friend Ken’s prostate cancer has spread to a tumor surrounding his liver.  He goes back into chemo next week.  My other friend, Terrill Collier,  is living with cancer as well and entered in again this week.  We’ll have a little team of some sort now.  A clever name for this team I can share with them would be appreciated.  An artist, a poet and a tree guy all in chemo.  What would you call us?


Finding Beauty in Kimberli

Once when she went

out to play with her friends

on the kind of day

when it rains, as it will,

and her long red hair

began to frizz


and then was gone,

its roseate beauty fled,

such splendid hair,


and the rain carried

her hair to sea, her spangled

hair, where it became


an island and her friends

went there, to the island

of her hair, to play


in the tropical sun,

in her vermillion,

and she didn’t mind.


Her friends adored

her bald remains, if you can

say what’s gone remains.


You can. Consider

how cherry blossoms

are born to fall.

Wk 4 – Finding Beauty Shoot: Bald Bride by Colleen Sparks & Sophie Chang

Week 4 Finding Beauty in Cancer.  Bald Bride 8/10/13   I think about other people who are bald from chemotherapy.  Young kids, especially girls.  I wonder what these girls hope for, think about their future, dream about when they are bald.  The concept of being a bald bride for the first “Finding Beauty in Cancer” bald shoot came from somewhere within those questions.  I’m not getting married.  There’s no groom, no ring, no hair.  I’ve never seen a photo of a bald bride before.  I hope that little girls see these images and see themselves in it as well. See Photographer Colleen Sparks and Bridal Designer Sophie Chang info below. Sparks_Blog Collage690at72 Bridal gown designer, Sophie Chang http://www.sophiebridals.com/, is probably my favorite anywhere and she happens to live in Portland.  After registering for the Bridge Pedal on Saturday, I stopped by her shop in SW to pick up this gorgeous $3,500 gown.  When I contacted her about the project and concept for the shoot she was so excited and wanted to collaborate.  I’m so grateful!  I hope to use another one of her gowns for the Cinderella forest shoot! Photographer Colleen Sparks http://www.colleensparks.com/ and I met during a job interview at my studio.  I quickly saw that she was an amazing photographer on her own, and instead of becoming my assistant, we became fellow students and studied a month long contemporary glamor posing course by Sue Bryce http://suebryce.com/.  Not only did we learn how to make women look even more gorgeous in our studios, we became great friends.  I asked her to do this first bald shoot specifically because I trust her skills and heart.

Week 4 – Attitude is not everything. On being bald.

Week 4

August 9, 2013

It’s 4:00AM and I wake up screaming.  The house is on fire.  My younger brother, sister and I are gathering up our favorite shoes and try to save the curtains for our mother.  I’m not sure which mother.  Meanwhile we feel the heat rising from the bottom floor.  It’s hot, very hot.   I fall down the stairs before there’s time to get out.  I hear the scream before I actually scream it.  The dream feels so real the back of my legs are warm to the touch.  The bones in my thighs and hips hurt from the post chemo shot.  I rise up and stumble to the bathroom for Advil.  I catch myself in the mirror and think perhaps I’m heading to the gym to swim at such an early hour.  My bald head is covered in a blue cap that makes me think of an athlete or Portland hipster.  I pretend, for a moment, I am both then realize the hipsters are all still asleep.  This is the second nightmare recently.  In the first I’m climbing up a mountain that is nearly vertical.  It’s in the Netherlands.  I can feel the sensation, the point where the incline is too steep and I begin to fall backward instead of propelling myself forward.  My counterbalance is a cat that sits on my shoulders and  keeps me from careening over.  In the dream there’s an entire country of us living our lives on this incline.

It’s odd being bald.  The sensations against my head.  The way the shower jets feel like a real massage.   The wind through the window at night making my head cold while my body isn’t sure what to feel and sweats in response.  The feeling of a friend’s hand running over the bristles on my scalp.  It’s like reverse velcro where I feel what the velcro feels.   I’m not used to it yet, this new bald look.  I’m trying it on.  I have wigs but don’t want to wear them yet.  I need to get comfortable in my own skin with my new form of beauty.  I realize now that I’m not my hair and my hair is not my beauty.  I was actually quite worried about this as my long red hair was such a part of how I identified myself.   I pretend I’m a high fashion model with an assignment.  I straighten my back and walk taller, wear heals to cross the 6’ mark.  I put on more make up and dangly earrings.   I notice my neck looks much longer and I feel exotic.  I keep my red lipstick fresh and I think I do actually feel better.  People respond to me with a mixture of emotions.  I hate the, “I’m so sorry,” and love the “you rock it.”  I’m sorry too but somehow don’t want to hear that when someone sees I’ve lost my hair.   I want to hear I’m “still beautiful,” or even, “you actually look okay,” as my neighbor Craig at the studio building said.  Honesty, love, not pity.  I know we all have emotion around our reaction to seeing someone bald from chemo.  I have been that person who got teary when I saw a friend lose their hair.  I know it, I accept it and yet it’s not where I am at this moment.   Yes, the moments are always changing by the way.  I want empathy but not sympathy.  Yet how difficult for my friends to empathize with what is constantly changing.   Within any given 15 minutes I can feel energized, grateful, totally exhausted, nauseated, grief and happiness.  My body is up and down without notice and my emotions can follow.

I’m amazed at how often people, including myself in the past, say it’s “all attitude.”  I don’t actually believe this.  Who is to say that without having had the experience themselves?   Speculation?  Wishful thinking?  Ignorance?   What we say so we can fit cancer, and how we imagine we might process cancer, into a box?  Easy enough to say but I’m realizing it’s far more complicated.   On my bad week my body is flooded with chemicals.  I hurt, I can’t see well, I’m fatigued beyond belief, I want to throw up every hour or more, my ability to work is severely compromised.  I have to get through this as just as everyone with cancer going through chemo does.  My mind and how I think about the process, as well as respond to each of the symptoms, does matter but I can’t say that “having a good attitude” is a constant or something that will keep the cancer from doing whatever it wants to do to my body.  My attitude won’t save me from cancer if cancer decides to spread and kill me.  It will make the journey my own however.  I want some choice over the journey regardless of the outcome.  Yes, I believe my outcome will be health.  I’m living my life that way but with the understanding that I’ve seen many people die of cancer who also had great attitudes.   Mine is not the “right” attitude to have.  I don’t fault anyone who goes through this and feels sorry for themselves or decides to quit.  I can’t imagine how millions of people have made it through this before me.  Just like I couldn’t imagine how millions of people made it through a divorce or death in the family.  We do it because we are human and it’s part of our experience.  Somehow most of us do it when and if our time comes.   I’m only in my 4th week of chemo having had just 2 rounds.  I can’t imagine what I’ll feel like by week 16.  How exhausted and depleted I might be then.   I can barely take all the pills three and four times a day I have to get down now.  What about after four months?  My cat is no help in the middle of the night or when I’m both wired on steroids and wiped out from chemo.  Useless cat.

Something to do, Something to love, Something to hope for.  I put this quote on my fridge several months ago before I knew, or perhaps even had, cancer.   I was reading a book called, “Calling in the One” by Katherine Woodward Thomas which is about finding a soulmate.  I did almost a years worth of exercises in personal growth, exploration and wine drinking with two of my best girlfriends while reading the book.  Those were the things I came away with.  Not the perfect person to find but the person to be.  The basics that motivate us in life, get us up in the morning,   propel us forward to “be” happy not “find” happy.   I’m finding that the real challenge in “attitude” is how to adjust my thoughts around these things that motivate and move me.  When the symptoms are too much for me to do the something I do, photography, can I shift to be okay with thinking about it or planning my project from the couch?  When ‘something to love’ is everyone & everything in my real life instead of dating to find a particular man, am I good with that?  When something to hope for is the immediate future, feeling good enough later today to ride my bike for 10 minutes, instead of how I’ll build my business to the next level this year, am I content and happy with that?   My attitude is about transforming what I see as success, love, beauty with each day in my new circumstances.  My attitude is not about fighting or going to war with my cancer but about living my life fully right now and rockin’ what I’ve got!


Week 0 – Finding Beauty Shoot: “Before” Nudes by Lloyd Lemmerman

Week 0, “Before Nudes” by Photographer Lloyd Lemmermann

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Lloyd Lemmermann http://www.lloydlemmermann.com/ is always my first choice as a photo assistant on commercial shoots.  A fabulous creative photographer on his own, his easy-going personality and technical ability always make me want to work and create with him.  Lloyd didn’t hesitate when I asked him to photograph me for the “Finding Beauty – in cancer” project as a before session.  He took his time to make me feel 100% comfortable and beautiful in my own skin.   Whereas I probably would have edited the flaws and bumps for a client I wanted Lloyd to leave them for me to remember my body as it was.  I’ve enjoyed every session I’ve ever shot with Lloyd and being on the other side of the camera from him this time only made me appreciate his heart, talent and empathy that much more.  Thank you, Lloyd.


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Week 3 – Hair Hair Everywhere

Week 3 – August 2nd after 2nd chemo treatment.

Hair, Hair, Everywhere!

Even my cat is impressed.

It comes out as I run my fingers through it, on my pillow, in the shower…  Don’t touch.  The hairspray will only hold it together for so long.  The time is coming to be bald!  We’ll see if that means bald and beautiful or just bald.  I tried on the wigs and scarves people have lent me this morning.  7 versions of myself.  I’m must curious about the bald one I have yet to see.  I suppose that any shade of red lipstick will work then.


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 Schoenholtzhttp://schoenholtzphotography.com/, Videography Lloyd Lemmermannhttp://www.lloydlemmermann.com/, Hair stylist Tamara Hansen of Oranjstudio www.oranjstudio.com Make up artistry by Kirstie Rall /Wrighthttp://kwmakeupartist.com/ 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 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 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

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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