A few months ago, my dear camp friend and fellow Lymphoma Survivor Ann Altman, wrote about her twist on cancer. Her poignant entry was featured on my blog and struck a chord with many of our readers. Ann was often the voice of reason and the calm in the midst of the storm throughout treatment and the days thereafter. This weekend, after 20 years of childhood, young adulthood, and cancer- we will be uniting for the first time.
As you can imagine- I am overwhelmed with excitement.
After posting Ann’s beautiful entry on Facebook, Jamie Lake, another Birch Trail Camp for Girls alumni reached out to me to let me know how touched she was by my story and my renewed friendship with Ann. After a few email exchanges back and forth Jamie asked if we would be willing to create a day of TOC at the JCC’s Camp Chi in Lake Denton Wisconsin. With excitement, we accepted her invitation.
Over the last few months I have had the pleasure and privilege of working with Northwestern University Professor Danny Cohen and two student interns Stephanie Aaron and Kali Maginity to develop a formal TOC curriculum that can be replicated and facilitated at camps, college campuses, religious institutions and community centers. This past Saturday, TOC had the privilege of working with 62 thoughtful, mature, and charismatic SIT’s ( 15-16 year olds).
It is hard to sum up the magic that happened that afternoon.
Not only were we able to educate and inform this remarkable group of young adults about the work of TOC, but we were able to give back to the brave and courageous survivors that are showcased on our site.
To learn more about the training- watch, learn and listen- they have quite a way of communicating
To learn more about the Twist Out Cancer Curriculum contact Jenna Benn at firstname.lastname@example.org
A special thanks to Jamie Lake and Gary Yates for believing in us. We are so grateful for the opportunity.
A Participant’s Reflection on Twist Out Cancer
Friday morning Jamie Lake gave the SITs a brief introduction to a three hour program that would take place the following day. The only information she provided for the SITs was that they were going to be involved in a program organized by a cancer survivor. She discussed the Jewish value of healing the sick, guaranteed that this session would be fun, and left the SITs to enjoy the rest of their day (which happened to be Waterpark Day)! Saturday afternoon the SITs all made their way to the Moadon, all feeling very doubtful that such a long session about cancer could be light-hearted and engaging. Upon entering the room the SITs were greeted by a young woman named Jenna Benn with a funky haircut. She quickly explained that her unique “do” was a result of her experience with cancer, and then asked the SITs to compile a list of all of the worlds that came to their minds when they thought about cancer. After a few minutes, each group read their responses, and afterwards one of Jenna’s assistants informed them of the ratio of positive words to negative words that she counted: 28:50. Jenna went on to tell her story and described how social media played a huge role in her persistent positive attitude. She concluded by explaining the origin and the nature of her project called “Twist Out Cancer.” While she was healthy Jenna loved to dance. A special song to her was the Twist, so in order to recapture the happiness she formerly got from dancing, Jenna posted a video of herself twisting away and asked others to post videos of themselves doing the same. The responses possessed a powerful healing tool which led Jenna to design her own website called Twist Out Cancer where cancer patients or survivors can post videos and pose a challenge or call to action for people to answer. All of the SITs then accepted three challenges presented by three people whose lives have been affected by different forms of cancer. One person requested that viewers create a piece of art without using the color grey because that color reminded her too much of her sickness. Another boy asked for people to talk about or film a carefree, childhood moment because he missed out on experiencing his childhood. The final person wanted others to share their own inspiring stories. To answer the challenges, the SITs split into three groups, one for each challenge, and recorded anything that they thought completed the challenges. Whether creating beautiful art, jumping in the pool with their clothes on, or sharing a touching story, it’s evident to see that the SITs went above and beyond expectations while answering their challenges. To conclude that afternoon, all of the SITs watched all three responses and joined in to dance the Twist.
As an SIT myself, I can say that this program went above and beyond my expectations. I approached the session with a solemn attitude, expecting to cry and comfort friends whose exposure to cancer has been far greater than my own. Luckily, I was pleasantly surprised. Like Jamie promised, the afternoon was nothing but fun. Jenna was fantastic and inspiring, and her idea is sure to help countless people. The entire SIT class banned together with 110% effort to put together meaningful answers for each person’s challenge. At the end of the session, as I looked out to my entire SIT class going crazy doing the Twist, I was overcome with an intense sense of teamwork and genuine satisfaction in helping complete strangers. My only complaint for the afternoon is that I only thought of something to share after we were done making our video. Right here I am going to make a pact. I promise that when I return home at the end of the summer, I will make my own account on Jenna’s website so that I can respond to more challenges and make a small contribution to healing the sick.