Judi and Irit: A Blossoming Friendship

 How did you become involved with Twist Out Cancer (TOC) and specifically, Brushes with Cancer? Can you tell us about any special meaning that your participation has held for you?

Judi:  If I remember correctly, I happened to see a post about it in a Facebook cancer group online but I don’t remember which one. To me, the idea that an artist will create something inspired by me and what I’d been through is so overwhelming and such a privilege. To share this journey with others is truly incredible.

Irit: For the last few years I have been looking for an organization to volunteer with. When I heard about Brushes with Cancer, I was immediately drawn to this special effort. I lost my young niece, Lital, to cancer a few years ago.  I am a true believer in emotional and spiritual therapy through art; working with Judi was a very meaningful experience for me.

Getting to know Judi was very impactful for me. She is a real fighter.  I admire Judi. Judi and I discovered that we both love and are fascinated by the ancient worlds, and especially ancient Egypt. As an artist I’ve been exploring Egyptian influences on my art, especially in the last two years. I read Judi final work for her B.A. ,which dealt with death in ancient Egypt. We discussed life in Egyptian times and the way they handled death, we had long and meaningful conversations about this.

What were you hoping to give and/or receive from the program?

Judi: I was hoping to share my experience, to grow, learn and heal. I was hoping to meet and learn from other survivors. The feeling that I am not alone is healing and inspiring.

Irit: Mostly I hoped to give Judi a lot of attention, to hug her and feel her in my heart. I wanted to see how our meetings and conversations have influenced my narrative art in lines, colors shapes and forms. I am excited to see my relationship with Judi has led both of us on a special adventure.

What most surprised you about your experience in the program?

Judi: I guess I was surprised by the immediate connection I felt with Irit. I felt so comfortable with her right away. And I knew I could trust her to create something real and true.

Irit: The most surprising thing was that through this work I felt emotional difficulties and I was surrounded by images that I really wanted to ignore. All of a sudden, I realized that the work I did during this period (scratching, etching and engraving on cork and wood) described the topic and was accompanied by ancient symbols from Egypt’s life. This work is dedicated to Judi and will be given to her, as a present and I’ll donate another piece of work to Brushes With Cancer that I made during this time. Judi was a strong inspiration for both works.

What are you most looking forward to at the big event?

Judi: I am really looking forward to seeing what all the artists have created. We all have different stories and it’s going to be amazing to see what each artist created on this journey.

Irit: My expectation is that this piece of art will be sold for a high price which will increase my donation to the organization.

What advice would you give prospective participants who are interested in getting involved?

Judi: I would say to future participants to feel free and honest with yourself. Believe that this journey can heal, inspire and give strength to keep being strong and proud of yourself.

Irit: The advice that I would give to prospective participants is to allow themselves the adventure of giving to others. The opening themselves up and the “give and get” processing can add a lot to their personal development.

 

 

Judi Hetzroni

Irit Bahalul

 Tickets are now on sale for Brushes with Cancer Tel Aviv. To learn information on the program and upcoming art exhibition and celebratory event, please check out our event website for fufther details.

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.

 

Meet Brushes with Cancer Artist Alumni – Doug Jones


MEET Doug Jones, a professional artist with a background in non-profit work. He is a veteran Brushes with Cancer participant who has been involved since its inception. Doug says he met Jenna (the founder) through a mutual college friend and “she was so lovely to be around that we connected immediately”. Specializing in Wonder Woman art, Doug’s first Brushes piece was for Noreen who had received a Wonder Woman figurine in the mail the day before she was diagnosed. Since then, Doug became a strong believer in the benefits of the program and he has not only participated in all of the Brushes events, but he also assisted with planning the first Michigan Brushes event, and is hoping to get a Detroit event on the calendar soon.

“My background is in psychology.” Jones says. “Mainly trauma and resilience-oriented therapy. I have used art therapy a lot and I have seen the benefits of art in therapeutic efforts.” The biggest benefit of the program, in his eyes, is that “people can see they are not alone.” An important aspect of healing therapy after any trauma is to find individuals who have had similar experiences. “This is a great reminder that people live through and with this all the time. A diagnosis is not a death sentence,” he emphasizes. “I think those are the two biggest benefits [of the Brushes program]: the sense of belonging and understanding that this is not a death sentence.”

Doug goes on to say that “

“My involvement with Twist has been such a journey. I wasn’t sure if Jenna was going to survive that first year, and it was such an emotional experience. I have a unique sense of joy just watching [Twist Out Cancer] grow. From participating, to being on the host committee, it has been just such an incredible journey.” Doug speaks fondly about the organization as if he is a proud father, watching his baby grow and expand and do good in the world.

To someone who is considering participating, Jones offers his own takeaway from being part of the Brushes with Cancer family: “I have seen insights – each of my people have shared things with me that they feel they can’t share with anyone. There is something about the idea that I am a stranger, and because of the purpose of the project they feel they have been able to share things with me. Those true insights into their personal experiences are the things I cherish the most. I would not have known these people, many of whom have become friends, without this program.”