In 2003 a life threatening illness greatly impacted Laura’s life path. A diagnosis of multiple focus breast cancer that required mastectomy made Laura determined to search for a medically approved treatment that could save her breast and halt the cancer, (what a life-long figure painter/teacher would want). Internet research by Laura's husband found a doctor in Detroit who was using cryoablation (tumor freezing), for treating prostate cancer and who was wanting to expand cryoablation to breast cancer. Laura became his first breast cancer patient, (and the first woman in the United States), to be treated with cryoablation and avoid a mastectomy. Since this had never been tried before, there was some risk that the cancer could make a recurrence, but Laura was willing to be the subject of experimental medicine if it had the chance of succeeding. The positive outcome of this treatment led Laura, and her husband Alex, to become advocates for cryoablation for breast cancer treatment to share this amazing option with others. They wrote a book, "They're Mine and I'm Keeping Them", based on Laura's journals and her writing along with narrative by Alex and insights from Dr. Peter Littrup.
The book has become the foundation of their advocacy work. Since 2005, she and Alex have maintained a website, keepingthem.com as well as the "Keeping Them", Facebook site where they regularly share informational posts and connect women seeking this innovative procedure with doctors who perform it.
Concurrently with this work, Laura has visited China four times. The last two visits were as a guest speaker of the Chinese at the Fuda Hospital International Forum on Cancer and Cryoablation. Her first talk related her experience as a cryoablation Patient Pioneer. A second talk by Laura in 2016 detailed Laura's idea for an “Early Freeze Protocol”. This talk was based on her letter to the editor of the popular website, Breast Cancer Weekly News Digest, where she called for researchers to explore her new treatment idea and a subsequent article about this subject written by a writer from the website and advocating for Laura's suggestion. That article was the number one most shared article in 2016 on this website, showing that women are eager to participate in this revolutionary alternative approach to breast cancer treatment. The web address of the article is, https://breastcancer-news.com/2016/03/29/breast-cancer-story/.
This cancer/health journey affected Laura’s painting imagery. In 2006 she developed an entire exhibit and catalog, “Naked”, featuring imagery motivated by the challenges and vulnerability of being a “Patient Pioneer”. The following year, curator Jessica Hunter Larsen featured her work in a one woman exhibit, “The Allusive Self”, at the Coburn Gallery at Colorado College, along with a catalog and artist residency. In 2016, Laura developed her first installation, “Drawing As Core”, linking 8 color coded panel constellations along the 45’ wall of Portland Community College’s North View Gallery, as part of the Visual Code exhibit curated by Mark Smith. Each color-coded panel constellation depicted a symbolic station of her cancer journey.
The popularity of this advocacy activity has created confusion from search results when entering Internet searches of the name “Laura Ross-Paul”. Both the Artist as well as Writer/Activist versions of Laura’s name give different results. Please be assured this is the same person.
Artists have always been known as early innovators. It was Laura's successful, career-long spirit of experimenting with painting materials that gave her the confidence to trust Dr. Littrup to try out his freezing technique for prostate cancer on her breast cancer. When first diagnosed with cancer, Laura had no idea it would lead her to experimental treatment, writing a book to advocate that treatment and ultimately traveling to China. Yet looking back, it only seems natural that her optimistic willingness to experiment in her craft would lead to her successful experience with cancer and ultimately take her to China.
Breast Cancer/Cryoablation info can be found at:
Early Freeze Protocol YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNVP__2kJNA
BCWND Article: https://breastcancer-news.com/2016/03/29/breast-cancer-
Quotes / Images from Book
"The psyche, the soul, the essences of the individual fights for, negotiates, or embraces the precariousness of existence has long been the subject of painter Ross-Paul’s art….the protagonist in these new paintings are contemplative rather than active; intensely quiet rather than intensely emotional.
They are, it appears, in a state of suspended animation. They are thinking. They are also naked”.
- Teri Hopkins, curator for the Marylhurst Art Gym, writing for the catalog for the 2006 exhibit, “Naked, Froelick Gallery, Portland Oregon
“Here she is also naked but is now surrounded by others in one of those gatherings common to the Oregon beaches that Ross-Paul frequents with her family. In this painting, young people gather in the foreground taking a break from their activities in the surf. They pay little attention to the naked woman in their midst and she pays little attention to them. Some experience has separated her from the lives of those around her. She may be exposed but they do not see her. She makes eye contact with the viewer, but her steady gaze does not create a bond and instead establishes her distance. She is very much alone.”
-Teri Hopkins, curator for the Marylhurst Art Gym, writing for the catalog for the 2006 exhibit, “Naked”, Froelick Gallery, Portland, Oregon
“Somewhere over the Rockies. We are flying to Detroit for my operation.. I am nervous, but trusting in God’s will”.
April 21, 2003
“Regardless of how I came about this cancer, I’ve accepted my fate, embraced it, and learned by it. My choices may help thousands, even millions, of women after me keep their breast/breasts. I’ve grown and been tested and persevered.”
July 13, 2003
“It’s unclear where she’ll land, but she shows trust that she’ll land alright”
July 17, 2003
“She balances precariously, her left hand holding a breast-sized globe that acts as a beacon to light her path through the darkness”
January 23, 2007