Thanks for all the money!

Kate and I have placed the order for all the photographs in the show. We spent all day yesterday deliberating over it – tough choices. I am grateful we get to spend all year shooting and spending time with these amazing women, and only one day a year deciding which photos are getting printed and which ones aren’t. This year we found a way to share more photos, but you have to come to the event to find out about it.

We want to say thank you to all the wonderful people who donated this year – we took in enough cash to pay for the canvas prints we intended to order. We still need to pay for several hundred dollars of event prep stuff out of pocket, but the fundraising made a HUGE difference in our ability to put the event together this year.

We took down the thank you gift offers, but please remember that you can contribute to our project year-round at this link.

One incentive that hasn’t gone away yet is the tattoo offer. The lovely artists at the place across the street from our HQ, Four Points Body Gallery, have most generously offered to provide tattoos of our project logo during the Sept. 29th event in exchange for a donation to the project of $30 or more. They tattooed Kate and I as part of the deal.

Please contact us to set up a time slot if you are interested in doing this: ofscarsproject [at] gmail [dot] com 

Lastly, please save the date of the event – Sept 29th at 5pm – in your calendars. We need you there!


Breast Impressions of my Childhood Hero, and Wishes for a Swift Recovery


I was an unstoppable bookworm as a child, and at the core of my essential reading was anything by Judy Blume.  Blume came to popularity more than a decade before I was ready for her, but the occasional confusing pop-culture reference didn’t matter in the face of a greater truth: her work made me feel normal.

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing was my coping mechanism when I found myself a lonely fourth-grader after moving to a new school in a new town. Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great helped me to understand that I wasn’t the only kid who was afraid of stuff. Then there was Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret . 

It was hard for me to talk about my body growing up, and though I struggled with body image issues as I navigated through childhood and into puberty, I didn’t feel like there was anyone I could ask about things. Breasts, after all, were “private parts,” and modesty dictated that they should be discussed only with a physician, and even then probably only at gunpoint. Imagine my mortification with the other changes that were happening.

The fifth grade book fair was a game-changer. That’s when I took my own cash and ponied up for a paperback copy of Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. Margaret was working through all kinds of issues, from her quest to find her spirituality to the mind-warp that is puberty. And she talked about it. She talked about periods, and about sanitary napkins, and about buying bras. Margaret even played spin-the-bottle, and did exercises in the effort to help her breasts grow. It was so scandalous. I wondered if my mother would let me finish the book, if she knew.

For the first time, I understood that growing up is an impossibly awkward business, and that the only way to survive it was simply to wake up every day and embrace it. I decided not to get swept up in the nonsense of it. I bought a plain white t-shirt that said “I am a nerd” in Courier font, and I wore it to my first day of middle school, confident that I was not alone.

Thank you Judy.

On her blog this morning, Judy Blume revealed a story that is perhaps far more personal to her than those I read as a child: her own breast cancer diagnosis. I am in awe of this childhood hero of mine for the honesty and clarity with which she writes of her own journey, even as she charts her course through these tender weeks post-diagnosis.

Blume wrote, “When it comes to breast cancer you’re not alone, and scary though it is, there’s a network of amazing women to help you through it.”

Keep talking, friends. Your honesty and compassion will help someone else to find his or her own way. You might be the reason someone else discovers that she is not alone.

And Judy? Thanks again.

The Other Project

in the last week i’ve had so many people send me the link to this project that is similar to ours – The Scar Project and ask me how i feel about it. my first thought?


and my next thoughts, in no particular order, were:

  • does this decrease the impact of what i am doing?
  • what can i do to get that much attention directed toward our project?
  • would people more broadly understand what we are doing if we shared all our photos on the internet?

and then i started trying to answer myself.

NO. this does not decrease the impact of what we are doing, in fact, i think it makes it stronger. we are doing our part, in our community, to make a difference in people’s lives. i am glad we aren’t the only ones doing this! we can’t do it alone!

i don’t know what i can do to increase the attention we are getting, that’s not my field. but i will say that so far it has seemed that every time it starts to speed ahead of us, it’s not as genuine. the project has its own life, and its own mind, and it has bestowed upon Kate and i the honor of hosting it, holding its hand, being its guide as it puts itself into the world. it tells us what to do, and it tells us we don’t need to hurry to have an impact. we don’t need to hurry to be doing the right thing.

people may more immediately understand what we are doing if we posted all our photographs on the internet, yes. but . . . that’s not what we want. we started this project with the intention of starting a conversation, and to make people think. we had fears in the first year of how it would be received, and we were cautious in our approach. Kate and i personally both prefer to make people happy, not to chafe or shock. above all else we did not want to shock. we wanted to provide a kind and meaningful glimpse of real women doing real things and really surviving. and being beautiful because they ARE.

here’s the thing, and i find myself saying it over and over:


we happen to take photographs of women and use it as a way to express this conversation. we use it as a way to introduce you to women who have a story to tell. we use them as a way to get people talking about what the journey is after a breast cancer diagnosis, so that more people can participate and lend a helping hand on that journey. or to at least have a glimpse of understanding and let down their barriers.

every october (and now that we have our space, probably more often) we celebrate the women we have worked with by hanging up their photographs and throwing a party. this is not a photo exhibit because a photo exhibit can stand alone. it will still be an exhibit when no one is standing in the room. this is different – it doesn’t exist without the amazing people that come together. you look at the photograph, and the woman in it is standing there, in person. and you talk to her. and you hear her story, in her own words. and you cry a little bit, or a lot, and you are overwhelmed with the power she has claimed by doing this and you are bursting with gratitude that she has stepped forward and done this and helped to unlock the start of the universal acceptance that HAS to come.

she is a pioneer, and you are there with her and you become a pioneer too. and that is why we are here. that is what our project means. we welcome other voices, other projects. we can’t do it alone.

Recommended Reading

In this morning’s Huffington Post, author Lea Lane has written a touching and wonderful ode to her own scars. Definitely worth the read.

In the piece, Lane points out that for her, the scars that nobody sees are the hardest ones to heal. I suspect that statement would be true for many of us.

In that spirit, I offer a challenge to all of us today. What can you do, right now, to honor and care for the most painful parts of yourself?

Be gentle with yourself today. Take a bit of extra care. And know that you’re not alone.

where the party is. . .

hi!  we’ve been handing out postcards about our celebration on october 1st and we hope you can make it – we’re organizing a great night of discussion, photography, food, drinks and music.

we are so excited to dig deeper into the stories and images of what we’ve been doing all these months, and we hope you have set aside the evening to join us.

the event will be held at 110 N. 3rd street in downtown minneapolis, next door to the 112 eatery. this is a private loft, the studio of  Carter Averbeck and Trompe Decorative Finishes.  you will need to check in with a door person to get in, but please know that it is open to the public with or without a paper invitation. We will be accepting donations at the door. We will accept checks, cash and credit cards (we will have a laptop and a helper to put credit card donations through online.)

110 N. 3rd Street, Minneapolis

The evening will start at 6 pm with viewing of the photographs, QR links to the stories and more images of the survivors we have photographed, and music by DJ Joseph Pettini.  We will also be featuring a panel discussion hosted by Jeff Kamin, creator and moderator of Books and Bars.  One of the panelists is Kevyn Burger, a wonderful woman who very publicly went through the discovery and treatment of breast cancer.  Following the discussion there will be a brief Q & A session with Of Scars founders Kate Kunkel and elli rader, and a set of live music by Venus de Mars.

There will be snacks and drinks provided by the Aster Cafe, and cupcakes from Cake Eater Bakery.

Find yourself a QR Reader app, and get your tweeting paw ready, because there will be a Tweetwally. official hashtag: #scarsparty.  follow us on twitter!

Please tell everyone you know about this event!

seeking participants for pilot group

we recently bumped into an old friend, pilates teacher Peggie Zoerhof.  her company is called The Intelligent Body and she has a pilates program for breast cancer survivors called the Pink Ribbon Program – the focus of it is to “offer strength, self-esteem and quality of life to breast cancer survivors.”

physical fitness is a tremendous part of daily overall well-being, and regaining the strength and flexibility after any surgery is a challenge.  but do you just hop back over to the gym after a mastectomy?  what about how you feel in the locker room?  or the pool?  i imagine for everyone, getting back into a fitness routine will take different forms and everyone will have different comfort levels – just as they would without the burden of cancer.  this program is noteworthy because it is a safe and positive place to get back into a routine, and to have some targeted help with your body post-surgery.  Peggie is a kind and gentle woman and thoughtful teacher.

Peggie expressed to us an interest in forming a pilot group for survivors, to build interest in the Pink Ribbon Program locally.  Here’s what she is offering:

“If you know as many as four survivors who could agree on a time, I would like to put together a pilot group.  Tuition would be free for this first group with just the cost of the exercise manual (pictures and directions for them to take with them) which is about $25.  The six week session would be proceeded by a 45 min. private consult to allow me to fully understand their history.  The six classes would be held in my home studio with the hope that participants are then able to graduate to a beginning Pilates class.  Each session will last about 30 minutes.  The 45 min. assessment for each participant will be scheduled at their convenience sometime before the start of the first class.  If the first class could start around April 26, the session would be done in time for the start of the summer sessions.
At first blush, a 30 min. session does not sound like much unless we consider that the program was designed for those who are about 6 weeks post op.  That said, anyone who struggles with lack of range of motion in the shoulder (due to breast cancer procedures) would be a good candidate.  Any candidate should be sure to have clearance from their doctor before starting.”
please consider this program if you are a survivor looking to get back into an exercise program, or pass the info along if you know someone that is. contact Peggie directly via her website, or feel free to give us a shout as well, we would be happy to pass your info along.