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.


Spotlight on David Turok, Brushes with Cancer Featured Artist


I have always felt that my art needs to tell a collaborative story. My typical paintings include collaborations with children in a collection called “#kidcollab”.  Babies and toddlers will finger-paint on a canvas, and with their parents, I will create a painting on top of their an abstract background that tells a story- a deceased grandparent, the artist of the couple’s first dance, etc.  The result is a timeless art piece.

When Jonny Imerman of Imerman’s angels introduced me to Jenna and the Brushes with Cancer event, I knew it would be right up my alley.    I did not however, foresee just how powerful the connection with someone affected by cancer could be.  I was paired with Ashley, and she told me all about her dad, Doug, and what she learned from him before he passed away.  With both my sister and my wife, I have seen how close a father-daughter bond can be.  It seemed so unfair that Ashley’s relationship was cut short.  When Ashley told me that “Piano Man” was the song they had together, it became obvious that this would be the focus of our piece.  I sort of pictured the song as being their first dance at Ashley’s wedding.  The bright colors and energy in the piece represent the way that Ashley told me her father lived his life.  I only hope I did him justice.

The entire experience with the Brushes with Cancer so far has been amazing.   Jenna is extremely organized and helpful.  I am looking forward to attending my first Brushes with Cancer event and look forward to participating for years to come.

-David Turok

Instagram: @drt_art


To bid on David’s artwork check out the Brushes with Cancer online auction.