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.

 

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

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Meet Brushes with Cancer Featured Subject and Host Committee Member August Spree

MEET August Spree, a mother of three, dancer, writer, and cancer survivor. August was introduced to Twist Out Cancer at the Chicago Brushes event in 2013. After the event brought her to tears, she walked up to Jenna (the founder) and declared “Hi, we are going to be friends!”. Weeks later, they were having coffee and discussing what ways she could be involved. She has since been a featured subject in two events, and will also be a subject in the upcoming Chicago event in May.

August was diagnosed with a rare form of fatty tissue cancer at 27 years old, and since then has been passionate about working with organizations that are helping support those who battle cancer. “The Brushes program was particularly poignant to me because it brings art and expression into the connection and healing process.” she says. As an artistic person herself, she found that music, dancing, and writing helped her get through her own struggle and strongly believes in the role that all mediums of art can have in helping survivors and caregivers through their experiences. She participated the first time as a survivor and was paired with Brad Young, an artist who created a sculpture to represent her story. “It was such a beautiful experience because I knew going in that I would need to share my story with this person, and I trusted that he would create something beautiful out of it. Being able to share your struggles with someone and have them see it as inspiration is incredibly freeing.” She also mentions that through that first participation, she met the love of her life. “Results are not typical!” she laughs.

After that first participation, August began helping on the host committee. “This program is so unlike any others that I have been involved in because of how it brings the art community and the cancer community together. That connection is beyond words… The subjects have to take that step, that leap of faith, and be open to sharing, and trust that they will be heard. Then, these artists are able to take this trauma, this thing that many would consider such a dark thing, and they create. They take inspiration from it and they create something beautiful. That is the metaphor here – and it is also literal. Life’s dark moments have beauty in them and that is what this program does – it demonstrates that so clearly.”

To anyone thinking of being involved with this program in any capacity, August says “DO IT. Seriously. I mean, be sure you are prepared to be open – whether you are an artist, or a subject, you have to enter in with an open heart ready to share, ready to hear. But definitely do it!” She says that if you aren’t quite sure about whether you want to participate, then try attending an event first. “Go to one of the events. Bring a trusted friend. See the art, hear the stories, talk to the people. I guarantee once you experience this, you will want to be a part of it, like I did.”

Share your LOVE with Shawn #Righthandhellos

Our dear friend Shawn is fighting brain cancer – for the second time – and has lost some functionality on the right side of his body. As such, he’s not able to wave hello at this point with his right hand… so our twisters came together to send him their #righthandhellos.

Follow the links to our FacebookTwitter and Instagram channels to watch Shawn & Erin’s video, and learn how to share your love with Shawn online. 

Within 24 hours, Shawn’s call for support has already reached hundreds of thousands of people, and twisters everywhere are sharing their #righthandhellos online. Let’s join together to continue to show our solidarity for Shawn – post your photo today!

 

PRESS RELEASE: TWIST OUT CANCER LAUNCHES FOURTH ANNUAL BRUSHES WITH CANCER EVENT, CONNECTING THOSE TOUCHED BY CANCER WITH ARTISTS TO CREATE FOR A CAUSE ON MAY 13, 2016

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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 LAUNCHES FOURTH ANNUAL BRUSHES WITH CANCER EVENT, CONNECTING THOSE TOUCHED BY CANCER WITH ARTISTS TO CREATE FOR A CAUSE ON MAY 13, 2016

February 15, 2016, Chicago, Illinois….On Friday, May 13th, 2016, Twist Out Cancer will host the Fourth Annual Brushes with Cancer Exhibition and Gala at Revel Fulton Market, located at 1215 W. Fulton Market.  Twist Out Cancer is a non-profit charitable organization that offers a platform for survivors, pre-vivers and caregivers of cancer to connect, support each other and heal. The signature event, Brushes with Cancer is a four month program that matches those touched by cancer with artists to create a unique piece of artwork reflected of their journey with cancer.  The artwork will be exhibited and put up for auction at the event with a portion of the proceeds benefiting Twist Out Cancer’s mission.

This year the gala will feature speakers Jenna Benn Shersher, Founder of Twist Out Cancer and Jonny Imerman, Founder of Imerman Angels. Music will be provided by grammy nominated composer, producer and pianist Sam Barsh, jazz vocalist Jesse Palter, and electric violinist Dr. Draw. DJ John Simmons will be spinning throughout the night.

Starting at 6:00 pm, VIP guests will attend a private reception with the program’s participating artists and subjects. Dinner will be provided by Limelight Catering and Entertaining Company.

Due to the success of Brushes with Cancer over the last four years, the program was able to successfully launch in Ann Arbor and Toronto.  If you are interested in participating in the program in one of our sister cities please contact Jenna Benn Shersher, Founder of Twist Out Cancer.

Established in 2011 as a non-profit organization, Twist Out Cancer (TOC) 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, TOC has touched over 63,000 through its programs and events. A labor of love, TOC is completely volunteer-led, boasting a network of over 200 active volunteers serving as ambassadors in Chicago, Detroit, Tel Aviv, Toronto and Montreal.

What: Brushes with Cancer

Date: Friday, May 13, 2016.

Time:  6:00 -12:00 PM

Location:Revel Fulton Market, 1215 W. Fulton Market, Chicago, Illinois.

Tickets:  Tickets are $150 for VIP and $100 for General Admission.  Tickets will be available for purchase online until May 12th at 5:00 pm.

Tickets include open bar, dinner, and the program. To purchase tickets online visit our website.

To learn more about supporting the program, exhibition and gala  please take a look at our sponsorship packages.

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

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#TwistOutEllen

HI ELLEN!

Welcome to Twist Out Cancer – we’re a support community, with a twist.

We were SO INSPIRED when we saw the incredible Braylon on your show recently, and the amazing #JustKeepDancing videos that are being shared online as a result. This movement you’ve created, of people dancing through cancer with such positivity and grace, is EXACTLY what we strive for here at TOC.

You see, Twist Out Cancer was built on the belief that when you share, the world opens up.

Four years ago, Jenna Benn Shersher (our Founder & Executive Director) was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called grey zone lymphoma, and was isolated during treatment in light of a compromised immune system. Feeling alone, Jenna – like you, a dancer at heart - posted a video of herself twisting to the esteemed Chubby Checker, and asked her friends & family to join her on the (virtual) dance floor. Within days, her challenge was met with videos from thousands of people around the world, and Jenna felt an overwhelming amount of support, love and encouragement from a new community of Twisters.

Once Jenna made it through treatment (she’s now happy, healthy & the mother of a beautiful baby girl), she recognized the power of dancing, sharing and connecting communities online. Ever since, Jenna & the TOC team have been working to create a global network that enables anyone touched by cancer to feel that same incredible support, by creating their own “twists” on cancer – a forum to connect, create, support and inspire.

With your help Ellen, and the unbelievable response to your #JustKeepDancing challenge, we think we could take Twist Out Cancer to the next level – to raise awareness of TOC with a whole new generation of Twisters, ready and eager to support people touched by cancer.

So, we’re going to take you on a twist-around-the-world, something we’re calling #TwistOutEllen! From LA to Chicago, London to Brazil, watch for your twist photos from near & far. And HOPEFULLY one day, you’ll do us the honor of Twisting Out Cancer on your show, and together we’ll share the TOC story with your amazing audience of Twisters everywhere.

Check out Twist Out Cancer on Meet Advisors!

This week Jenna Benn Shersher, Founder of Twist Out Cancer met with Renata Sandor of Meet Adviseos to discuss how Twist Out Cancer has grown from a movement into a thriving non-profit organization.

MeetAdvisors is  committed to maximizing the potential of the Entrepreneur. Through strategic advice and targeted relationships, MeetAdvisors exemplifies the risk taking artists of business who put everything on the line to make their passion a reality. MeetAdvisors understands that the Entrepreneur is the backbone to all business and as such the foundation of starting a business needs to be rock solid.MeetAdvisors, dedicates themselves to the success of those idea hunters who work tirelessly to create the breakthroughs we all admire and rely on.

Check out the Meet Advisors profile and interview below.


 

 

Honoring Fred Ho

Ruth Magraff, Chair and Associate Professor of the Writing Program at the School of the Art Institute  in Chicago, participated in in Brushes with Cancer. At the VIP reception, Ruth shared a poem that she wrote about her dear friend Fred Ho, world renown Avant-Gard  composer and musician. A few days after the event, Fred passed away after a long battle with Colon Cancer.

We encourage you to learn about Fred in the recent NY Times piece, and explore Ruth’s beautiful tribute to Fred by clicking on the link below. May his memory always be a blessing.

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