Meet Dana Phipps, Artist, Caregiver and Chicagoland Area Influencer.

An avid artist from the age of three, Dana Phipps works with acrylics to produce beautiful and moving paintings. Though she discovered her passion in her art classes in high school, one of the most integral points in her development as an artist hit when Phipps lost her mother to breast cancer. Through her period of intense grieving, she produced a piece inspired by her mother, which paved her path towards taking part in the Brushes With Cancer program and has since gained incredible social media attention. The empowering and hope giving artwork features a topless woman who is covering her breasts with a pair of pink boxing gloves.

Posted on her personal Instagram, Phipps publicly shares the story of how she honors the memory of her mother.

PHOTO/ @dana_fineart

Due to the popularity of the piece, Phipps created her own event grounded in healing art therapy. Named Knockout, the event invites survivors of breast cancer to pose topless with a pair of boxing gloves covering their breasts, while photographers took their pictures. Participants were able to enjoy food and live entertainment as they supported and honored past, current, and future fighters. The powerful pictures are then combined into a collage to spread awareness and educate people about breast cancer. All proceeds are donated to local hospitals.

The pictures taken of the survivors with their boxing gloves during the photoshoot were

compiled into a larger collage featuring a larger image of a woman with pink boxing

gloves.

PHOTO/ @dana_fineart

With her heavy involvement in art therapy, Phipps was immediately drawn to Brushes With Cancer after seeing a Facebook friend announce her participation in the event. In the announcement, her friend shared a video capturing her testimony and why she had chosen to be an inspiration for the program, which not only deeply moved Phipps, but also connected her with Twist Out Cancer. With the work she had already been doing with Knockout, she felt a personal calling towards Brushes With Cancer.

“That was my personal art healing therapy, and it got a lot of attention,” Phipps said. “I am such an artsy person, that when I first found Brushes With Cancer, my first thought was, ‘Where do I sign up?’ I instantly knew I needed to be involved. As a visual artist who lost her mom to breast cancer, I knew the significance of an event like this from both sides. I’ve always tried keeping my mom’s memory alive, and art has helped me. Twist Out Cancer was amazing to me in both aspects, and I think it can also be healing for ppl on the opposite side who are artists.”

During the Brushes With Cancer event, Phipps was paired with Danielle Thomas, a survivor of cervical cancer. In her personal testimony, her twin sister Michelle was always present, providing a constant source of support, love, and encouragement. The two were interdependent, working the same job and commuting to and from work together. After forming a relationship with the two women, Phipps was able to see how strong the twins’ bond is, and thus decided to use that bond as the inspiration for her artwork.

“Danielle and Michelle’s connection was so powerful and heartfelt,” Phipps said. “These two have shared the womb, shared one roof, and shared the happiest and darkest times in each other’s lives. Dani’s physical battle with cervical cancer was Michelle’s mental fight too. ‘You fight, I fight…you hurt, I hurt…you cry, I cry’ is the spiritual and emotional bond these twins share. Danielle had a rough road to recovery, but with prayer, strength, courage, and her sister support system…cancer had no chance! Born together, friends forever. This is true twinship.”

Titled “Twinship,” the piece features a silhouette of two women standing back to back. The silhouettes merged together to form the image of one larger woman and the impression of a cervix.

“I was trying to express how this one woman, who had cervical cancer, couldnt have

fought it without her sister’s support,” Phipps said. It showed [Danielle’s] internal fight

couldn’t have been won without her twin.”

PHOTO/ Brushes With Cancer

Phipps is planning on returning to the Brushes With Cancer program, and is brimming with enthusiasm for this year’s program.

“I would tell any artist that it’s definitely an amazing experience to hear someones truth and hear them put it all out on the table,” Phipps said. “It’s very therapeutic for both parties, especially if you’ve been affected by cancer. To hear someone’s story really puts it on a whole new level for you. Hearing Danielle’s story and the authenticity really opened my heart and my mind. I would encourage an artist to at least try it once and meet someone and hear their story. Let it be a healing process. Create art based on the truth, and just watch for a reaction! There’s really no way to describe how it feels, I guarantee you!”

To learn more about Brushes with Cancer, purchase tickets and learn about sponsorship opportunities check out our website.

 

Written by Joy Hsu, Northwestern University.

August Spree Reflects on Her Experience with Brushes with Cancer

It was a breezy April evening, and I happened to get a ticket from a co-worker to an event called “Brushes with Cancer” that started right after work. Without having any idea what to expect, I walked the six blocks or so to the event. It had been 10 years since my first cancer diagnosis and only a couple months since a recurrence scare. In addition to being a cancer survivor myself, my grandmother was diagnosed with stomach cancer a few years after my experience, and she passed away only 10 months later. I was eager to be connected within the cancer community.

As I observed the event throughout the evening, my heart was touched and I remember thinking, “What is this? This artwork is so amazing. How did they do all this?” as I walked around the venue reading the stories next to each work of art and each individual story. I asked one of the artists who was responsible for all this and he pointed me in the direction of Jenna. When I found a moment to introduce myself to her, I jokingly said, “My name is August, I am a cancer survivor, and we are going to be friends!” and she very graciously laughed and agreed to have coffee with me soon.

We sat down over coffee and shared pieces of our stories and I asked, “How can I be involved?” The poignancy of this program, creating beauty from pain using art, touched my soul on a deeper level than I was even able to express at that time. This was what I had been looking for within the cancer community; a way to be involved in something personal, something creative, something with a healing quality. Jenna talked to me about her vision for the organization and I couldn’t have been more excited. I called a friend as I walked through the city back towards my apartment: “My life has just been changed, I know it.” I told her.

Over the next two years, I told everyone I knew about Twist Out Cancer. I began recruiting my closest friends, family and even acquaintances to be involved with the Brushes with Cancer program. And then, one day after a phone call, Jenna suggested I participate as an Inspiration in the 2014 Brushes program.

After being accepted and receiving my artist match, I was nervous. As we exchanged emails, I knew I would have to dig deep and talk about things that I hadn’t talked about for a long time. But I was also excited to have the opportunity to share my journey with someone who would then create something beautiful from it.

My artist and I met for coffee on a Sunday evening just before Thanksgiving and he was engaging and interested in knowing every piece of my story. We spent 5 hours together sharing pieces of ourselves and I found a liberty in being able to talk about some of the things I was unable to share with my loved ones when I was going through my diagnosis. We agreed to meet weekly after that to continue getting to know each other. He shared bits of himself with me just as much as I shared with him.

With my artist, I could talk about how I thought I was going to faint when the doctor told me the biopsy results, how I felt my baby kicking in my belly while I struggled to make my way back to my car after that appointment (I was 8 months pregnant at the time of diagnosis), how I felt guilty that I didn’t have the strength to call my best friend and tell her so I sent her an email instead, and so many other things. I was able to lay out all of my journey, the fears, the struggles, and the victories, without judgment, criticism or emotional reaction. And while I shared, I could feel myself coming to terms with my own experiences.

After 4 months, the exhibition and gala was in Chicago and he had kept his art creation a secret from me. When I walked in to the event, I saw the beautiful sculpture in person for the first time – a piece he titled “The Dance”, and I wept. That experience helped me to heal in ways I wasn’t even aware that I still needed, and since then I have spent my energy on encouraging others to participate.

Having experienced cancer as a survivor and also as a caregiver, I am even more passionate about what Brushes with Cancer offers to those who choose to participate.

Since that initial experience in Brushes with Cancer, my artist and I have become partners in many ways and we now live together in Michigan. That first night when I walked into the Brushes with Cancer event, I knew my life had changed but I had no way of knowing just how much. From growth and healing through the Brushes program, to the expansion of my heart and new love, to becoming an Executive Board Member and ambassador of Twist Out Cancer and the Brushes with Cancer program, my life has been altered in the best possible ways because of this experience.

What the Brushes with Cancer program offers is a chance to express pieces of your journey with cancer that may be unexpressed or unfelt. It offers a chance to connect with a stranger and realize that we are all so much more similar than we are different. It offers a chance to see that from so much pain, beauty can still grow. And it offers a chance to be part of a strong and supportive community of people who understand what you’ve been through. Sometimes it seems like we are all so divided these days, and this gives people a chance to be vulnerable together, see another human for their experiences and who they are instead of assuming we already know, and then, after all of that, it gives each pair a chance to look at the dark experience through new eyes with a new light and pull from it the threads of beauty and strength that will be added to the tapestry of the life of everyone who interacts with them.