Twist Out Cancer: Creating a Cancer Support Community through Creative Arts

“When you share, the world opens up.”

Those simple words are more than just Twist Out Cancer’s motto, it’s what drives their mission and work. Twist Out Cancer provides psychosocial support to cancer survivors and their loved ones through creative arts programming.  Their work is unique in that they not only reach patients but anyone who has been touched by cancer. Through engagement and creativity, they are able to inspire and connect a large cancer support community.

It all started when Founder Jenna Benn Shersher was diagnosed with grey zone lymphoma, a rare form of cancer that affects less than 200 people in the United States. Jenna has always been involved in the arts, specifically dance, but her diagnosis and treatment caused her to experience profound isolation and loneliness. In a state of desperation, Jenna sought refuge through social media. She posted a video of herself doing the twist and within days, hundreds of responses came in with people dancing. Jenna realized that she had unknowingly built a community of (twisters), and she no longer felt alone.

After Jenna’s treatments, she was determined to give back to people who have been affected by cancer.  She saw the importance of community and how the act of sharing can bring people together. From there, Twist Out Cancer was born.

This unique support community offers even more than a sense of belonging; for many affected by cancer, it gives them the strength to keep going. People involved with Twist Out Cancer enter a space that lifts them up, provides them with invaluable wisdom, as well as offers new strategies and perspectives on how to manage this life-altering experience. Furthermore, the members are encouraged to create a challenge of their own that is meaningful to their cancer experience, just like founder Jenna did with her twist video. For example, one community member posted,  “I’m in the midst of chemotherapy and I have lost all my taste buds. I really miss my grandmother’s lasagna. Here is the recipe — gather some friends, host a dinner party, and tell me what it tastes like.” Supporters in the past have used written word, photography or even video to share their challenge, receiving hope, inspiration, and comfort in return.

This cancer support community itself extends to monthly events and educational workshops, with a focus on psychosocial support, education, advocacy and the creative arts. The workshops allow individuals touched by cancer an opportunity to share their very own twists on cancer.

Twist Out Cancer is best known for their program Brushes with Cancer, which is a 4-month program that matches survivors with an artist who creates a unique piece of artwork reflective of their journey with cancer. Since the program’s inception, they have reached 15,500 individuals in Chicago, Toronto, Ann Arbor, Montreal, and Tel Aviv.

Inspired and want to get involved?

Brushes with Cancer in Chicago is currently accepting applications for those that are interested in participating as an artist or inspiration. To learn more, visit their website here.

ShoppingGives is proud to offer a chance to help raise funds for Twist Out Cancer, which gives their supporters an easy outlet to give back to the great things they do. Because of Twist Out Cancer, survivors like Jenna and hundreds of others get to engulf in a supportive community while they fight, cope and heal.

Join a twist today at twistoutcancer.org/actions and give back at shoppinggives.com/twistoutcancer.