Brain cancer at age 23 is the furthest thing from ugly.
hen I first had a conversation about Vivienne's migraines, I couldn't believe this young, attractive woman hadn't found a solution.
We became friends over the next three months and one day Vivienne spilled the truth that she had much more than a solution. She had anaplastic astrocytoma (which is grade 3 or stage 3 brain cancer).
This lithe, beautiful young woman said it with such calm reserve that it seemed too unreal to take in.
How could a 23-year-old who looked so great be so sick? Her doctors, and she's had almost too many to count, wish they had an answer.
Vivienne hasn't yet found a neurosurgeon who will take her case, so she started the next best thing: chemo and radiation.
In only her second week of treatment, Vivienne chopped her massive mane of curly, blond hair down to an adorable bob.
It didn't last.
Two weeks later, the rate at which her hair was falling out drove her to the hair salon for a more painful visit. It was time to shave her head.
She cried. And cried some more.
Vivienne's hair meant more to her than something to mindlessly twirl while flirting with a young man. It was a shortcut to self-expression.
Her thick curls were useful in the same way that women with long legs and big boobs push the world around.
Vivienne sucked it up, alone in the ways all of us fear. Her judgmental family in Florida wasn't in a rush to come to her side. Her erratic boyfriend didn't believe she really was sick.
Growing thinner every day, Vivienne's already large, limpid eyes grew even larger. But I wasn't seeing fear behind her look. I saw a resolve to hang in there no matter how bad the prognosis, no matter how alone she might feel.
As her reactions to treatment progressed, I looked for ways to support my friend and feel useful to her. Seven weeks into her treatment, Vivienne finally gave me a really good opportunity. She asked me to take some nude photographs of her.
I knew this was going to be a great thing for both of us because of her understated, sophisticated gift of expression. I had a feeling this shoot might alter the way she saw herself no matter how ugly and unattractive she felt being bald, pale, drawn and thin. I knew this because I already saw her as an incredible beauty with shapely cheekbones and killer eyes.
I was right.
Vivienne tells me that whenever she's feeling exhausted and ugly, she looks at her photos for a reminder that she IS still beautiful.
We got to thinking that this might be a good thing to offer other women in her shoes.
As of today, I'm launching, "Koren shoots cancer in the buff." It's a beauty shoot for any woman dealing with any humiliating, demoralizing cancer treatment.
It's affordable, it's fun and it will change a woman's outlook not just for a day, but possibly forever.
For more information, please contact the studio.