Meet Jacqueline Carmody, Brushes with Cancer Artist & Twist Out Cancer Board Member

About Jacqueline Carmody

Jacqueline Carmody is an Art Therapist based at the  Art Therapy Studio Chicago, LTD in Wicker Park. She also works as a freelance artist with the Fulton Street Collective and is currently working from home studio in Roscoe Village.Jacqueline uses art as a platform for communication and self-expression. She was born and raised on the Southside of Chicago and attended Western Michigan University for undergrad. She began studying painting in the Gwen Frostic School of Fine Arts, but quickly realized that the competitive art environment did not feel natural.  Jacqueline knew there was another path to share her artistic skills and sought out an art therapist as a mentor. Jacqueline graduated undergrad with a bachelors in Psychology and BFA in painting. She went directly into graduate school at Adler University to obtain her Master’s in Counseling and Art Therapy.

Jacqueline is currently a registered art therapist and licensed clinical professional counselor. She is working in private practice in the Chicago area where she provides expressive therapy services to individuals, families, and groups. Jacqueline provides a safe space to unleash your creative potential and encourages art making as an effective way to discover solutions to life’s struggles.

Outside of her clinical work, Jacqueline continues to use art making as a form of self-care. She is a member of the Fulton Street Collective, and is creating original oil paintings, watercolors, and drawings from her home studio in Roscoe Village. Jacqueline engages with her work in a relaxed and curious way. Her work reflects her values of being present in the current moment and explores mindfulness based techniques.

Her Involvement with Twist Out Cancer

Jackie first became involved with Twist Out Cancer in 2013. Fresh out of graduate school, she had just moved into the city and was beginning her career as a therapist.  While browsing the internet for different art therapy opportunities and different areas to share her artistic skills, she stumbled upon Twist Out Cancer in a blog post!  She was intrigued by the combination of using art as a form of healing, communicating, and storytelling. Jackie, along with many others, have lost family members and friends to Cancer, and felt a special connection to Twist. She followed her intuition and reached out to the Founder, Jenna Benn Shersher. Jenna was so welcoming and excited to have her jump on board as an artist in the Spring event. She has since participated as in artist in 3 events, and 2017 will be her 4th.

The highlight of being involved with Twist Out Cancer has definitely been the personal connections. She describes having have formed unique relationships with people that she would never have met otherwise. As an artist, she is honored to be paired with such brave and amazing individuals each year. She is excited to meet other members in the community and see all of the beautiful creations at the event on Saturday, September 9th.

Jackie recently held a night of art therapy with current Brushes with Cancer participants at Therapy Studio Chicago in Wicker Park. Be sure to check out her blog on the experience and her artwork on her website.

You can also learn more about Jackie’s involvement with Brushes with Cancer through the Brushes with Cancer impact video.

Press Release: Twist Out Cancer’s Fifth Annual Brushes With Cancer Event To Take Place On September 9

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

TWIST OUT CANCER’S FIFTH ANNUAL BRUSHES WITH CANCER EVENT TO TAKE PLACE ON SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 9

 

Connecting Those Touched by Cancer with Artists to Create for a Cause on September 9, 2017

                                                                                                           

July 17, 2017, Chicago – Twist Out Cancer, an international non-profit charitable organization that provides psychosocial support to individuals touched by cancer through creative arts programming, announced today that tickets are now on sale for its fifth annual Brushes with Cancer Exhibition and Gala.  It will be held at 6 p.m. on Saturday, September 9, 2017 at Revel Fulton Market, located at 1215 W. Fulton Market.  Brushes with Cancer is a six month program that matches those touched by cancer with artists to create a unique piece of artwork that reflects on their journey with cancer.  Over 100 artists and inspirations will showcase their stories and works of art at this year’s art exhibition and gala.  Attendees will have a chance to view and bid on over 50 unique works of art that were created by an artist as a tribute to their inspiration’s journey with cancer.  Each piece of art will be exhibited and auctioned at the event with proceeds helping to further Twist Out Cancer’s mission to support cancer survivors and their loved ones.  Over 700 attendees are expected to attend.

“After surviving Grey Zone Lymphoma in 2011, I saw firsthand how young adults with cancer have a unique set of needs that are not being addressed or talked about.  I found that one way of fulfilling this need is through creative arts, which could be used as a mechanism for coping and healing,” said Jenna Benn Shersher, the founder and executive director of Twist Out Cancer.  “Twist Out Cancer was founded on the principle that when you share, the world opens up.  Since our inception we have impacted more than 100,000 people through our online platforms and community wide programs including Brushes with Cancer.”

This year’s gala will feature remarks from Jenna Benn Shersher and Jaymee Sire, a former anchor at ESPN and current food blogger who has personally been touched by cancer.  The event will also feature a live performance by composer and filmmaker Kobi Swissa who will be playing music from the Brushes with Cancer soundtrack and DJ John Simmons who will be spinning music throughout the evening.

“Twist Out Cancer uses art as a form of healing, communicating, and storytelling,” said artist Jacqueline Carmody who has been involved with Twist out Cancer since 2013.  “I have been so honored to be paired with such brave and amazing individuals each year.  Every experience has been unique and words will never be able to express the power of this event.”

VIP tickets are available for $175 and general admission tickets are available for $125.  VIP guests will attend a private reception one hour prior to the event with the program’s participating artists and inspirations.  Dinner will be provided for all guests by Limelight Catering, Entertaining Company, and The Fat Shallot.  All tickets also include access to an open bar.  Tickets will be available for purchase online until September 8 at 5 p.m. at:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/brushes-with-cancer-chicago-2017-tickets-32820620359

Due to the success of Brushes with Cancer over the last five years, the program has successfully launched in Ann Arbor and Toronto.  In 2018, the program will be implemented in Tel Aviv, Montreal and Philadelphia.  If you are interested in participating in the program in one of the sister cities please contact Jenna Benn Shersher at jenna@twistoutcancer.org.

Established in 2011 as a non-profit organization, Twist Out Cancer offers the platform, tools and community – both online and offline – for anyone touched by cancer to feel connected to a community, and for many to take action.  Since its inception, Twist Out Cancer has touched over 100,000 people through its programs and events.  A labor of love, Twist Out Cancer is a volunteer-led organization boasting a network of over 200 active volunteers serving as ambassadors in Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, Tel Aviv, Toronto and Montreal.

Sponsorships for the 2017 Brushes with Cancer event are available here.

 

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For media inquiries, please contact Joshua Taustein at josh@twistoutcancer.org.

 

Meet Rika Cargill, 36 – “The Fighter”

            Rika was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer in August 2012. Unfortunately, Rika wasn’t a stranger to this horrible disease. She lost both her mother and grandmother to breast cancer and her father to prostate cancer. Rika decided to fight because she didn’t have an option to give up for three very special reasons.

“Motherhood made it worth the fight,” says Rika.

She is a mother of three and not only on a mission for them, but for those who can no longer contend. Rika connected to Brushes With Cancer through artist, Jessica Bond Montalbano, and her work at previous events. Her “twist” on cancer is to be present and enjoy time with your family and friends. Losing her loved ones didn’t generate a resentful outlook; rather it made Rika even more grateful. Cancer shaped the trajectory of her life in positive ways she never deemed possible.

Her cancer journey fostered a more patient, concerned, and loving mother. She relishes every single moment with her children. Having this disease, also called for open lines of communication with her children. It’s created a platform for dialogue and those tough conversations, which need to take place. She’s learned to embrace change and encourage her family to as well.

If there is one takeaway we can all learn from Rika, it’s through her message.

            “It’s good to live in the moment than not to live at all.”

-Rika Cargill

Mother, Fighter, Survivor, Inspiration

*Blog entry submitted by Courtney Anixter

 

Meet Nichole Olson, 31-”Close Watch”

In May of 2013, Nichole found a lump in her breast during a routine shower exam. She immediately called her doctor and had it biopsied that day. She learned her fate and headed straight into a mastectomy with reconstruction followed by six months of chemo. Then in August of 2015, she had a full hysterectomy for BRCA2 gene and, sadly, in October 2016 discovered a new lump in almost the same spot as the original. Nichole had surgery again to remove and test the lump. After twenty-eight radiation treatments, she is still watching closely today.

Given the extent of her ordeal Nichole suffered from PTSD, which led her friend Heather to suggest becoming involved in our organization. Nichole thought the process of joining the Brushes With Cancer community would not only help her heal, but also provide comfort to other young women in her shoes.

Nichole’s son was only one and a half when she was first diagnosed. She worried her capabilities and limitations due to her illness would fail her as a mother. She relied on others guidance and support in raising her child. She credits her family for taking care of her son when she needed to take care of herself. Nichole treasures every major milestone with her son, especially seeing him sign up for kindergarten.

Final words from Nichole as we remember and learn from her story.

“Everybody is entitled to feel how they want to feel! If you want to feel overly optimistic and happy all of the time then do it! If you want to sit in a corner and cry the whole afternoon then do it! But the one thing you can do to help yourself is live.”

-Nichole Olson

Mother, Survivor, Inspiration

*Blog entry submitted by Courtney Anixter

Meet Erin Brown

For Erin Brown, Mothers Day is complicated.

When she was 17 years old, her mother passed away from Lupus, a rare autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacks the body’s tissues and organs. After an 8 year struggle, Erin’s mom was laid to rest on Mother’s Day.

When Erin’’s son was six months old, she was diagnosed with stage 4 Osteosarcoma, an aggressive bone cancer that required months of treatment and surgeries. She immediately thought about her own mother. “My mom never wanted me to see her struggle. She hid her pain from me in order to protect me.”

When Erin was diagnosed with Cancer, she was forced to act quickly in order to survive. She made the difficult decision to travel from her home in the Bahamas to Florida for care, which required her to spend months at a time away from her family.

This choice ultimately saved her life, but it came at a high cost. Despite a rigorous course of chemotherapy, she still required a partial leg amputation. She spent 3 of her son’s birthdays in the hospital! Can you imagine?

Erin reflected on her mother’s strength and determination throughout the course of her own illness. She drew upon her mother’s strength during her darkest moments.

She was determined to live–not just for herself, but for her beautiful infant son! Thanks to you and others like you, Twist Out Cancer is able to provide women like Erin with a community of healing, emotional and physical support.

For Erin, Mother’s Day is a day of celebration, mourning and reflection. She holds her son Aaron who is now 13, and her daughter Jupiter who is 1, close.

“Cancer was and will never be considered a personal tragedy for me. Instead, it was my wake up call. My Twist on Cancer is, embrace where the journey takes you. It all matters. It all counts.”

Cancer did not deter Erin Brown’s dreams. She is a triathlete preparing for the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo.

She is also one of the participants in Brushes with Cancer in Chicago coming up on September 9th.You may know that Brushes with Cancer provides psychosocial support to those touched by Cancer to improve the quality of life for Cancer patients, their family and loved ones, through a unique art experience.

We strategically matches artists and individuals touched by Cancer. The inspiration shares their story and the artist is charged with creating a unique work of art reflective of their journey. The art is then exhibited at our annual celebratory event and gala.

Erin is excited to have the opportunity to share her story with countless others and is grateful for the opportunity to be a part of Twist Out Cancer’s support community.

She said: “Brushes with Cancer’s emphasis on creative expression transcends language and cultural barriers. I am privileged to have the opportunity to inspire and empower others, and receive the love and light that the community is providing.”

Because of your support, Erin now has an international platform to share her story and inspire others.

Will you please consider making a gift today?

Your support will make a considerable difference to Erin, her family and others like her who have been touched by cancer.

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Sincerely,

Jenna Benn Shersher, M.S.W

Founder and Executive Director of Twist Out Cancer

P.S. To learn more about Erin’s story and her involvement with Twist Out Cancer, Check out the Bahamian Tribune Network’s front page story. Thank you for your support of Erin and other courageous women like her.

 

Photography: Vado Culmer of VC Photography

A Collaboration All Their Own

Lauren Smoke felt a lump in her breast six weeks after she became pregnant with her first child.  Eight weeks into the pregnancy she received a call – the lump was malignant. Lauren, a healthy yoga and music teacher for children, vividly recalls the moment that she realized she had breast cancer. She feared the worst. Losing her baby.

Pregnancy is a period of physical and emotional challenges. For Lauren, pregnancy included surgery and chemotherapy. Lauren received support from a community of women who received breast cancer treatment while pregnant.

Lauren had a son, Nico. He was born at 35 weeks healthy.

After one year and a half of remission, October 2016, Lauren was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer that has spread to the Mediastinal lymph nodes.
Dr. David Turok has been an artist for Brushes with Cancer, a program of Twist Out Cancer that provides psycho-social support to those touched by Cancer to improve the quality of life for Cancer patients, their family and loved ones, through a unique art experience. He more recently joined the board this past July because of his strong belief in Twist Out Cancer’s mission and programs.

Dr. David Turok is dentist and an artist based in Chicago. A few years ago, David was inspired by a piece of art that his niece painted. He decided to use the work as the canvas and backdrop for a meaningful art experience that would involve the whole family. The experiment became the foundation for his highly successful venture called KidCollab, which provides a unique and impactful experience for parents and family members, where the children’s art serves as the canvas for David’s painting. His instincts have proven to be accurate, as he has received numerous requests for artwork is booked out months in advance.

David believes that Brushes has been one of the most rewarding and engaging experiences of his life.

Lauren and David both participated in Brushes with Cancer last year, and connected at an event where David advertised KidCollab. Lauren contacted him to commission a piece after her first battle with cancer; they reconnected after her second diagnosis.

Finishing Lauren’s painting is a priority. Recently, Nico painted the background, moving around the canvas creatively and freely. David and Lauren have a developed a connection throughout the process. He recalls Lauren, “sang the most beautiful version of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star you have ever heard.” The painting will be an image of Lauren when she was pregnant with an elephant that has particular meaning to her and her family.

One of David’s favorite projects was created for Jenna Benn Shersher, Founder and Executive Director of Twist Out Cancer as a surprise. Jenna was diagnosed with Grey Zone Lymphoma at the age of 29. Therefore, there was an uncertainty regarding her ability to conceive a child. Her daughter is for all intensive purposes a miracle- and a blessing. For the piece, Jenna’s daughter, Noa Pearl, painted the canvas. The painting has an image of Jenna hula hooping, and  holding Noa, which represents the miracle of her birth.

According to Jenna, the piece serves as a constant reminder of how art can not only tell a story but serve as a tremendous catalyst for healing. David’s work hangs proudly in Noa’s room and is a constant reminder of the power of hope.

The connection that David and Lauren made after the Brushes with Cancer event showcases the power of the program and the importance of building community. Brushes with Cancer is not only about providing participants with a unique art experience, it is about building a supportive community that is there for them throughout their journey. Lauren, now facing her second bout with Cancer, has a community behind her that is ready to support her through every step.

To learn more about Brushes with Cancer and supporting our program please check our website for updated program details.

 

Press Release: TWIST OUT CANCER, PIPERWAI AND WEWORK LAUNCH FIRST ANNUAL SOCK HOP IN HONOR OF #GIVINGTUESDAY, A GLOBAL DAY OF DEDICATED GIVING TO NON-PROFITS.

Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

TO: ASSIGNMENT EDITORS, COMMUNITY CALENDARS

Contact: Jenna Benn Shersher, Founder and Executive Director of Twist Out Cancer

jenna@twistoutcancer.org

TWIST OUT CANCER, PIPERWAI AND WEWORK LAUNCH FIRST ANNUAL SOCK HOP IN HONOR OF #GIVINGTUESDAY, A GLOBAL DAY OF DEDICATED GIVING TO NON-PROFITS.

October 26, 2016, Philadelphia, PA….On Tuesday November, 29, 2016, Twist Out Cancer, PiperWai and WeWork will host the first annual Sock Hop at WeWork Northern Liberties, located at 1010 N. Hancock. Twist Out Cancer was founded in 2011, by Jenna Benn Shersher, a Grey Zone Lymphoma Survivor. TOC provides emotional support to cancer survivors and their loved ones through creative arts programming. This global community encourages anyone touched by cancer to connect, create, support, inspire and heal. Since its inception in 2011, TOC has touched over 73,000 through programs and events. A labor of love, TOC has a network of over 200 active volunteers serving as ambassadors in Chicago, Detroit, Tel Aviv, Toronto, Montreal and now Philadelphia. Jenna recently moved Twist Out Cancer’s headquarters from Chicago to WeWork in Northern Liberties.

PiperWai was founded by Jess Edelstein and Sarah Ribner in 2015. Piperwai is a charcoal cream deodorant that works naturally to absorb wetness and fight odor. As recent winners of Shark Tank, PiperWai has grown exponentially in the last few months. Guided by their desire to give back to the community, PiperWai is generously donating 10% of all proceeds raised during the month of October to Twist Out Cancer. Use the code TOC10 to purchase your very own PiperWai deodorant.

So what does a deodorant company and a cancer-focused nonprofit have in common? A lot actually. Cancer survivors are often concerned about what types of products they are putting on their bodies before, during and after treatment. A natural deodorant free of toxins and chemicals, allows them to feel safe and confident throughout their journey with cancer.The partnership between Twist Out Cancer and PiperWai happened because of WeWork. Working in such close proximity to one another, has allowed the driven, passionate founders to connect, and think outside of the box for new innovative ways to make an impact on the community. Twist Out Cancer and PiperWai is a natural partnership.

The Event

Starting at 6:30 pm participants will have a chance to learn about Twist Out Cancer’s programs and resources for the those touched by cancer. PiperWai Founders will discuss the importance of the partnership and present a check to Twist Out Cancer in honor of Giving Tuesday.

Music will be provided by Girls Rock Philly.

Date: November 29, 2016

Time: 5:30-8:00 pm

Tickets: Free for WeWork members, suggested $20.00 donation. All donations will be matched 100% due to a generous donor. Food and drinks will be provided. Purchase tickets online at the event website.

Location:We Work Northern Liberties, 1010 N. Hancock, Philadelphia, PA.

For media inquiries please contact Jenna Benn Shersher, Founder and Executive Director  of Twist Out Cancer.

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Tiny Twister Spotlight: Josh Katt, Founder of KitchFix

During the month of November, KitchFix, a Chicago-based kitchen that provides healthy meals delivered to the home or for pick up, is donating proceeds to Twist Out Cancer in honor of #GivingTuesday. They are generously providing a $1000 match for all donations made throughout the month!

Since 2012, KitchFix has cooked for cancer survivors and their loved ones, busy parents, CEOs, active people, Crossfit champions, TV personalities, young professionals, lawyers, professional athletes, and rock star musicians. Kitchfix is the solution for when you’re too busy to make a meal, in need of a healthy option, craving something scrumptious, or all of the above. Their meals are chef-crafted, made from scratch, sourced as locally as possible, approved by their in-house registered dietitian, and hand delivered.

 

This week, Jenna Benn Shersher, Founder and Executive Director of Twist Out Cancer sat down with Chef Josh, Founder and CEO of KitchFix to learn about what motivates them and why their partnership with TOC is so important.

Jenna:Why did you start KitchFix? What needs do you believe your company addresses?

I (Chef Josh) was a personal chef to a number of clients, and one of them requested that I cook according to an anti-inflammatory diet. She was recovering from breast cancer, and knew that eating this way can help tremendously in the healing process. I realized I could lean into all of the techniques I learned in culinary school to get inventive in creating delicious food that didn’t rely on dairy and gluten. This kind of food eliminates stressors on the body and focuses on whole, clean ingredients that all help the body function optimally, and this appeals to all kinds of people today who want to live healthier lives.

Jenna: Why are you interested in working with cancer survivors and their families? How did your work with this demographic begin?I truly believe that food can have a healing impact on your life. We have so many stories from our clients who have used Kitchfix to either lose weight, hit a personal health goal, or who are battling different auto-immune diseases and love having us as their go-to option. We don’t want people to ever feel like they are ‘losing out’ by having to eat this way — we want all of our clients to feel excited for each order, to try different menu items, and we want create craveable dishes that are even better than some of the classics you are used to!

Jenna: Why have you chosen to partner with Twist Out Cancer during the month of November?

Because this is the way our company got started, it holds a special place in our heart! We want to help people be healthier, but also to add joy into their life. That’s what Twist Out is all about. We all eat 3+ times a day, every day. Food is so much a part of what we do, and we want people going through a difficult time, especially with something as awful as cancer, to not have to sacrifice their food or flavor. We want to help bring awareness to Twist Out’s mission and give generously along with our clients to this cause!

Jenna: What are you most looking forward to with Cook Out Cancer- an Event that will be launched in partnership with TOC on January 19th?

We are so excited to see people discover what you can do when given a challenge. Sometimes challenges seem hard, but the best results can come out of them! By eliminating some of the ingredients many people are used to, we are looking forward to see what they come up with and watch people become proud of the skills they didn’t even know they had! We are most excited to have Shawn and his family here and have some fun with them in the kitchen.

Jenna: Do you have any words of advise for young adults who are starting to build their own venture?

Our journey has had a lot of ups and downs. Failure is inevitable. I have come up with some things that haven’t been hits, and some things that have taken us to the next level. Surround yourself with people who will encourage you and accept the full package. Life can be really challenging when you’re pouring yourself into one thing, but make sure to celebrate all of the tiny wins because they all add up to huge successes!

To participate in KitchFix’s campaign for Giving Tuesday check out their page.

To register for Cook Out Cancer

Twist Out Cancer and PiperWai- A Natural Partnership

Sarah Ribner and Jess Edelstein, the dynamic and tenacious duo behind Piperwai natural deodorant, are driven by their desire to give back and make an impact. As recent winners of ABC’s highly acclaimed show, Shark Tank, they have chosen to use their platform to raise awareness and funds for nonprofits that are making a difference in the community.  Their recent partnership with Twist Out Cancer is a natural fit as the two groups are making waves in their respective communities.

Jess and Sarah have known each other since childhood. They had a thriving lemonade stand when they were little girls, and they always dreamed of one day working together as adults. Their friendship withstood the test of time, as the two went off to college in different cities.

After graduation, Sarah took a high stress job on Wall Street.  She found herself feeling sluggish and made a conscious decision to prioritize her health. Back when she was 15, she saw how her body and mind transformed by cutting out soda and heavy sugar. Now in her twenties, she decided to change her diet, and make the conscious decision to seek out natural products for her skin and makeup. Sarah not only started to feel better, but she found that she was able to manage her stress by prioritizing self care.

Jess on the other hand, had a problem that she needed to fix. As a heavy sweater with sensitive skin, she found herself struggling to find a natural deodorant that actually worked. She started to read about all natural recipes online and decided to try it herself. She noticed fairly quickly that there was a real void in the marketplace for products that actually work. Jess created a recipe that she believed in and convinced her best friend Sarah to bring it on a relief trip  to Central and South America. Sarah was so impressed by the product’s effectiveness that she shared it with the volunteers. When Sarah returned home she decided to partner with Jess to bring this recipe to the masses.

In 2012, PiperWai was born. Sarah and Jess worked out of Jess’s kitchen to perfect the recipe. Eventually they moved to a commercial kitchen and started to sell their product locally. On a whim the ladies auditioned and eventually won Shark Tank which has transformed the company overnight.

Sarah and Jess’s passion is contagious. Not only are their customers loyal but they have taken to social media using the hashtag #piperwai,  Customers are sharing their testimonials and how their product is changing their lives. The PiperWai social media accounts promote motivating and inspiring photos that align with the mission.

Sarah and Jess firmly believe that while you can’t live in a bubble, there are healthy choices that can be made to lower your risk of illnesses and promote better well being.

 Since Shark Tank, PiperWai is committed to partnering with a charity partner every quarter. They do not just randomly offer discounts on their product, instead they choose to discount goods for the benefit of non-profits. As their charitable giving started to grow, cancer survivors and their loved ones started to notice, and have since become repeat customers.

Cancer survivors are often concerned about what they should or shouldn’t put into and on their bodies before, during and after treatment. The armpit contains many lymph nodes, and there is often a concern about putting toxic chemicals close to areas that may or may not impacted by disease. One of Piperwai’s customers found a tumor in his armpit because he was using the product which currently does not have an applicator. By design the product encourages you to touch yourself and get in touch with your body. The male customer was thankful that he found the tumor when he did.

Twist Out Cancer is honored to be the chosen charity partner throughout the month of October. Jess and Sarah were inspired by Jenna’s story and the concept of how Twist is impacting the cancer community.

During the month of October, PiperWai is donating 10% of all proceeds to Twist Out Cancer. To participate, use the code TOC10 at the checkout.

On November 29th, in honor of Giving Tuesday, a global day of giving, Twist Out Cancer and PiperWai will host the first annual Sock Hop at  WeWork with proceeds going to TOC. For more information on the event please check the website.


Is there a fringe benefit of cancer?

On Friday, September 9th, I had the opportunity to share my story with over 200 cancer survivors, artists and their loved ones at the 5th annual Voices and Visions Art Exhibition at the Art Center Highland Park. Curated by Caren Helene Rudman, this exhibit features art that expresses how cancer can be a metaphor for so many areas of our lives- from facing one’s mortality to survival and strength. The Artwork for those that participated, not only showcased the struggle, but it revealed how art has the ability to empower and heal.

This exhibition was particularly moving as Caren has recently lost her mother after a long battle with breast cancer. Her beautiful family was with us that evening to show support and honor her memory.

Caren reached out to me to ask if I could share what I consider to be “the fringe benefits of cancer.”

Here are the words I shared with those that attended.

In 2010, at the age of 29, I was diagnosed with Grey Zone Lymphoma, a rare blood cancer that affects less than 200 people around the world. During months of treatment and immunosuppression, I was grounded. Grounded by a disease that forced me to face my own mortality. Grounded by a disease that stole so many moments. Grounded by a disease that forced me to live in the shadows, excluded from the world I was so desperate to be a part of.

During the hundreds of hours of  ground-breaking chemotherapy, I was given the privilege of time. This borrowed time became a sacred time. It was an opportunity to take stock of what was really important and examine what it really means to be grounded. What keeps me rooted, centered, and focused, as the world around me unexpectedly shifts and changes? Cancer may have caused irreversible changes, and temporarily shackled me from my former self, but it also provided me with an opportunity to be set free, to reinvent myself, and to find a path full of meaning.

When I was diagnosed with cancer in my late 20’s, I was admittedly searching for meaning and fulfillment. I had dreamed about moving to Israel, a place I felt a deep spiritual, emotional and cultural connection to. I had wondered if I would one day fall in love and find employment in a role that nurtured all parts of me.

In the midst of filling out the application to make aliyah- and to fulfill that dream of living in Israel, I was diagnosed with cancer.

While Cancer may have physically grounded me, preventing me from world travel and exploration, I sought refuge by looking within. I was determined to learn more about  my inner world, my emotional world, and my spiritual world. As my physicality became more severely compromised, I was determined to find meaning in my suffering. My heart and mind were like a sponge waiting to be filled up. Within a few months, I had never felt more plugged in and in tune with my inner compass.

By the time I finished treatment, I had a much clearer sense of my hopes and dreams. I had a acquired a sense of fearlessness, perseverance and determination. By finding and listening to my inner compass, I changed course, seeking out a new path that I was excited to explore and take on.

In May of 2011 I finished 720 hours of chemotherapy. In October of 2011, I founded the nonprofit Twist Out Cancer which focuses on the emotional side of a cancer diagnosis through creative arts programming. We believe wholeheartedly in the fringe benefits of a cancer diagnosis. We call the fringe benefits- our “twist on cancer.” There are plenty of lessons and blessings that can accompany a cancer diagnosis- you just have to be open to experiencing them.

In November of 2011, I met my husband, my soul mate, my everything, who saw beyond the scars, beyond the baggage, beyond the diagnosis, and saw the spirit that lives within me. We were married in Israel, in May of 2013 and we gave birth to our daughter Noa in May of 2015.

My life has evolved, changed and grown exponentially since cancer.

Cancer at the time may have grounded me physically, but it has since rooted me and guided me towards decisions and choices that are fulfilling. Cancer has provided me with meaning, with direction, with purpose. It has shown me that hope, love and light can come from even the darkest of places.

Tonight we celebrate the voices and visions of so many of you here this evening. Thank you for being brave, thank you for being bold, thank you for sharing your experiences with all of us. I believe that when you share- the world opens up. And from sharing comes healing. Tonight is a testament and celebration of just that. Caren- thank you for vision, your voice and your leadership. It is because of you that we continue to share our story- and we continue to remember.

Thank you.