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

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.


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.”

 

 

Meet Brad Young, Brushes with Cancer Featured Artist

 


MEET Brad Young, father, artist, and carpenter. His background in art is varied and spans multiple expressions including pastel, music, drawing, painting, and sculpting. “I consider myself more of an artistic soul than a master of a certain art form.” Brad says. “I have found interest in all mediums and I appreciate all forms of art. I was in a band when I was young, and I took some art classes, but I am mostly self-taught, I guess.” he explains. Brad has done two Brushes with Cancer events; one in Chicago and one in Ann Arbor.

“I was introduced to the program by Bowen Kline, who is one of my closest friends.” After attending the launch party in November of 2014 for the Chicago 2015 event, Brad found Brushes to be “inspiring”, and a great use of art. “Art is often used to express only the artist’s point of view on things, and in that way, art can be very selfish. I liked the idea that this program was focused on beautiful things: survivors and strength and resilience and that it requires the artist to be selfless and tell someone else’s story.”

Young says the biggest benefit of the program is the opportunity for people to come together in a beautiful way and find strength, hope, and love in one another through something that is very difficult. “Strength because you see the amount of people that have been affected, and there is comfort and community in that. Hope and love because we pour ourselves out to each other and support each other.” he emphasizes. Both times Brad participated, he used his woodworking skills to create very unique pieces for the art exhibition. Though he is not creating a piece for the upcoming Chicago gala in May, his piece “Healing Harp” from the Ann Arbor installment will be featured and auctioned off there.

“The biggest lesson I learned from all of this is that the Universe makes sure that we are in the right place at the right time. That sometimes things don’t make sense in the moment, but there’s a reason for everything that happens, even when it’s hard or sad. These are the things that shape our character into who we need to be.” He then speaks about his first subject and survivor, August Spree, who became very dear to him throughout the process of being paired in the Brushes program, “I just think about the big picture: if August had never been affected by cancer, we would never have met. If I had decided not to check out this program with Bowen, we would never have met. The amount of things that I have learned about myself and about life and love is priceless, all because I participated in [the] Brushes [program].” He goes on to say, “It might seem like a small thing, like it did to me at the very beginning, but it has already had a big affect on my life. I think that’s a big deal.”

Brad says to anyone who is looking into the Brushes program, “It’s a great opportunity to participate in something bigger than yourself. It can potentially help you and help someone else greatly – this program has a positive impact on a lot of people. To an artist, I would say it is one of the most beautiful ways to gift somebody with one of your talents.”

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

TWIST LOGO.jpg

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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Brushes with Cancer Chicago 2016 Spotlight: Bowen Kline, Artist and Twist Out Cancer Ambassador

Photo Credit JeffSusan Cancelosi

MEET Bowen Kline, an artist and husband who lives in Romeo, Michigan, and has been involved with Brushes with Cancer for 3 years. Bowen describes himself as a “self-taught, fine painter” who has been doing gallery work for over 15 years. Bowen attributes his artistic influences to his environment growing up on the border of Southfield and Detroit, and his constant exposure to a diverse group of people. “I grew up in the arts,” he explains. “My exposure came from my parents and my upbringing. My dad always encouraged us to be creative and he supported us in that. He’s also my biggest critic too, always pushing me to do better, which is good. I have been surrounded by art and culture my whole life.”

This will be Bowen’s fourth time creating art for a Brushes with Cancer event. He was first approached by Jenna to participate in an event with the Chicago branch of the ADL (Anti-Defamation League), and soon after he was invited to participate in Brushes with Cancer Chicago as well. “Working with Jenna on the ADL artworks project sparked a conversation with them about doing Brushes with Cancer. As an artist, one of the things that I enjoy so much about the Brushes program is that it is such a wonderful opportunity to see someone on an emotional level, to be able to connect with them in a different way. As a figurative painter, that is very important to me in my art.” says Bowen of his involvement with the program. Bowen says that he paints something every day, but being an integral participant in the Brushes program holds a special place in his heart, and not just due to the good cause behind it. “The biggest benefit is the overall connection with the individual that I am matched with,” says Kline. “It makes me feel like my art has a purpose, a different type of purpose than I normally may focus on. Art is a very selfish thing, usually, you know. It is always about the artist’s viewpoint on anything, and this program forces me to create art that is about the subject and their viewpoint and what they have experienced. It’s all about the survivor, not me. My art then becomes more of an act of giving. It takes me outside of myself. Everyone seeks a purpose, I think, especially artists in their work. That is why this is such an important event to be involved with as an artist and I would encourage any artist to be a part of this.”

Brushes with Cancer has been pairing artists with those touched by cancer for three years now in three cities with plans to expand even more. Each participant has a unique experience and many have built long-term friendships from the pairing. But the most important result of the program is the experience from the connection that occurs. As the subject tells their story, and the artist reflects it, both are able to have a positive growing experience. Bowen adds, “What I would tell people is that it is an outstanding opportunity to further your creative side as an artist and push yourself in a way where you can really learn something different. Brushes has taught me to actually love every moment of your life. Listening to the stories of how people have beat cancer or are living with it… [he pauses]… it is incredibly inspiring. Being a part of this community has really helped me come out of my shell and shown me that there are some good things in the world. Some really amazing things in this world.”

Twist Out Cancer- A Retaliation to Shame

On November 19th, Founder and Executive Director of Twist Out Cancer Jenna Benn Shersher spoke to 150 attendees at the inaugural Brushes with Cancer event in Toronto, Canada.

Below is Jenna’s speech from the event.

It is an honor and a privilege to be here.

Coming back to Canada- in many ways feels like I am coming home. There are many of you in the room tonight that I have known since I was 17 years old, when I made the brave and bold decision to cross that border- and immerse myself in Quebecois culture.

It feel as if I am amongst family tonight- so thank you for the warm welcome.

Nearly 5 years ago, at the age of 29, I was diagnosed with Grey Zone Lymphoma, a blood cancer that affects less than 200 people in world.

In the months that followed my diagnosis, I was given the unique opportunity to bear witness to my own funeral.

I watched those closest to me mourn what seemed like an imminent passing

I saw them try to come to terms with how someone so young, could be taken so soon.

And I started to hear about how my life had in some way made an impact.

Before cancer, I was a 29 year old searching for fulfillment. I had hoped to fall in love, imagined what it would be like to lay roots, and dreamed about one day building a family.

Fighting a rare type of cancer, as a young adult- throws your hopes and dreams into a state of delirium.  As my experiences became distilled into a series of cherished moments- I became keenly aware that I was on borrowed time.

My life as I knew it was on hold.

As I learned to exist in this holding pattern, I also started to notice how young adults with cancer had a unique set of needs that simply were not being met.

As I fought a cancer that was so rare, I had limited options of where I could turn to get the support and assurance that I needed. I wanted to be able to connect with others that had experienced what it was like to face their own mortality. I wanted to be told that I would not only survive, but that I would thrive.

As a young adult, there was no one I could talk to about the catastrophic impact chemotherapy could have on my eggs and ovaries. Not only was cancer killing me, but it was killing my ability to one day have children.

Why was no one talking about this?

As my treatment progressed, and my immune system became further compromised, I found myself increasingly lonely and isolated. I no longer related to the family and friends that had known me for years, but rather sought refuge online amongst a community that I had unknowingly built. It was this community where I found love, support and understanding. It was this community that allowed me to process the gravity of my situation. It was this community that allowed me to eventually heal.

When we refuse to speak about what’s hard- we aren’t being honest. And it is the silence that eventually turns into shame.

I was 29 years old, unsure if I was going to live or die, and I was riddled with shame.

It was a shame that tried to paralyze me, but instead inspired me.

Twist Out Cancer in many ways a battle cry- it is retaliation to that shame.

As I wrote in my blog throughout the many months of treatment, I found that when I shared the world opened up.

I wrote about the hard.

I wrote about the truth.

I wrote about the shame.

And in doing so- I connected with many of you. Old friends and new friends. Friends that have become like family.

 When I finished treatment, I was determined to shed light on the unique set of psychosocial issues and circumstances that face the young adult population fighting cancer. And I was determined to give voice to the voiceless who had been stifled by a cancer diagnosis. It was the quiet, the tendency to retreat, and the shame that really rattled me.  Imagine if more people came forward with their story, if more people came forward with their needs, and if there was a space to harness and celebrate creativity.  We all need an outlet, a safe space to share our twist on cancer. This was the community that I was determined to create and is currently being built right here in Canada.

The launch of the Twist Out Cancer Canadian Chapter is a major milestone. My ability to tiptoe out of the shadows, out of the grey zone- and into the light would never have happened without Dan Hadad. Dan’s passion and drive to share Twist with Canada is why we are all here tonight. It is his vision, his hopes- and his dreams that have brought us here tonight.

I am incredibly indebted to you my friend- you provided me with incredible support and love during a very dark period of time. The  cancer community in Canada is so lucky to have you at the helm, leading us and encouraging us to share our twists on cancer.

The program Brushes with Cancer was born 4 years ago in Chicago, when Anna Swarthout, a fellow grey zone lymphoma survivor that I had mentored put out a challenge asking the community to create a unique piece of artwork not using the shade of grey because that was all that she was seeing. In the midst of chemotherapy, Anna bravely made the call- and the community answered. Within days we had murals painted in Switzerland, sculptures created in Toronto, dances choreographed in harlem. The community was coming together to support Anna.

When Anna shared- the world opened up- and it was up to us to listen.

Brushes with cancer matches those touched by cancer with an artist that is charged with creating a unique piece of artwork reflective of their journey with cancer.

To honor my 5 year cancerversary, I chose to participate for the first time in Brushes with Cancer- as a subject. My artist, Aviad Herman, is an Israeli dancer and designer living in Sweden. As I embarked on this process, I found myself opening up about aspects of my life that I had never spoken about. Aviad and I connected over skype- by email, and on facebook messenger. The thousands of miles and experiences that separated us, became irrelevant. Technology had enabled us to connect in a meaningful way. Unsure of where our conversations would lead, I was admittedly nervous. What did I want to share with him, that others may not know. When you are so public about your experiences with cancer, its hard to figure out what is new or unique. 61/2 months ago, I gave birth to my beautiful daughter named Noa Pearl. Noa is for all intensive purposes a miracle. My husband and I still look at her in awe of how she made it into this world. As I have transitioned into my role of parent- I have found myself much more protective of my online profile, and what I choose to share with the public. Aviad made me feel safe. He found a way to ask me questions that no one else had asked. He showed a genuine interest in understanding my pain, my struggles, my triumphs and my strengths.

It was only when Aviad presented his artwork that I was fully able to understand the time, effort and love he put into this project. He approached Brushes with Cancer not as another artistic venture, but as an opportunity to connect, learn, support and inspire.

Brushes with Cancer creates unexpected intersections, and connections, creating a system of support no matter where you are at in your journey.

I cannot think of a better way to honor where where I have been, and where I currently am. Aviad-  you will always hold a special place in my heart.

I want to thank the incredible host committee, subjects and artists that shared their passion, time, experiences and talents with us- we are so grateful for your participation and we hope this is only the beginning.

Thank you for being here tonight.

Thank you for making yourselves vulnerable.

And thank you for allowing the world to open up.

 

 

 

 

#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.