Deborah Kasman

To Chemotherapy–Or Not!

I had breast cancer twice. My first time I made an educated choice not to start aromatase inhibitors (AIs). With early stage premenopausal cancer, overall survival rates were the same, on or off AIs. (There is 13% increased chance of reoccurrence off AIs). I chose survival rates and lifestyle. I am very active and wanted to avoid muscle and joint aches, osteoporosis and possible diabetes.  
I felt like I was in Vegas, spinning in Russian Roulette. I chose the wrong number and lost. Two years later, I grew another breast cancer on the same side, in breast tissue remaining after my mastectomy. Now there were two metastases in axillary lymph nodes. My survival rates markedly declined. I had difficult choices to try to improve my odds. 

The Waves of Los Lobos

“About ten months after my cancer treatments (two surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation), my cousin came from Israel, and we ventured up the California coast at a slow pace. Nature is healing for me. I was mesmerized by the deep turquoise swirls and the power of the ocean churning against the cliffs at Los Lobos State Park. I started painting what I felt, and this image emerged. “Nature is healing; chemotherapy and radiation strips away one’s known self, and a new process of rebirth begins. I believe this artwork is myself nurturing what will come as I heal in the arms of Mother Nature–whose power to heal breathes deeply in my heart.”

Free to Be . . .

As a single parent most my children’s lives, my identity fixated on motherhood. I managed their successes, failure, moods and challenges. I was at the helm of our ship.
As they entered their teens, they described my steering as “stupid.” So, I shifted from captain to astronomer, helping them navigate by reading the stars. Taking a backseat was uncomfortable, and I bit my tongue (a lot!), rather than elicit another battle. I surrounded them with trustworthy adults, recognizing the same advice uttered from a different adult became morsels of wisdom in their eyes. As an astronomer, I had subtle influence helping them notice signs that could lead away from entropy and towards marvelous constellations instead.

Reflection in the Mirror

I love my bathroom–after all, I picked the flooring and all the finishes, including the mirror spanning the wall opposite the shower. One morning, I step out of the shower, drying my underarm, when a bump under my breast reflects in the mirror. When my arm is down, it’s gone. When my arm is up, it’s there. Is it a cyst? Did I hit my chest? Is it in my breast? Oh, well, I’m late to work, so I run off.
bridge of compassion

Bridge of Compassion

Deborah Kasman

About the artist: 

Deborah Kasman is a family physician and bioethicist who has straddled both careers. She has always loved the arts and was an active photographer until she started a family. As her children grew older, she decided to take up painting and learned a method called Intentional Creativity. This process and productivity has allow her a wonderful release and form of expression for her internal state. 

About the artwork:

“As I entered bioethics full time, I was struggling to define my career and goals. During a five-month course of developing my story and ‘legend,’ I realized my role as bioethicist was to build bridges of compassion. I once had a deep spiritual experience in which I felt compassion, and in this painting I tried to convey what compassion feels like. My role is to create space for this compassion to occur between healthcare providers and their patients and families. The painting depicts a ribbon …

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bless our children - kasman

Bless Our Children


Deborah Kasman

About the artist: 

Deborah Kasman is a family physician and mother of two teens. A practicing clinician and academic bioethicist, she works as a bioethics director for Kaiser Permanente in southern California. “Two-and-a-half years ago, I started painting to reconnect to my own soul, having gone through my own experience of trauma while raising a child with undiagnosed Asperger’s syndrome, who had uncontrollable rages. I paint by a method called Intuitive Painting, whose mantra is ‘the canvas can hold all of your feelings.’ “

About the artwork:

“I was in a painting class when Adam Lanza shot and killed twenty-six people, mostly children, in a Newtown, CT, elementary school. While our country mourned the loss of those individuals, I also mourned for Adam and his mother, whose deaths were tragic as well. My experience with my own family members who had suffered from mental illness gave me insight into Adam’s fear and angst. In ‘Bless Our Children,’ a woman sobs under a weeping willow tree in the …

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