Brushes with Cancer Celebrates Survivorship, Creativity and Hope in the Physical and Virtual Space

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Jenna Benn Shersher is the Founder and Executive Director of Twist Out Cancer, and the Associate Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League in the Chicago/Upper Midwest Region.

On April 10, 2014, Twist Out Cancer held the 2nd annual “Brushes with Cancer,” an evening that celebrates survivorship and hope through art, music and storytelling. Brushes with Cancer is a four month program that challenges survivors and caregivers to share their "twist on cancer," (lessons learned, fighting strategies and new perspectives) with our online community of support. These "twists" serve as inspiration for artists to create unique pieces of artwork that are reflective of the survivor and caregivers’ journey with cancer. The program concluded at the Brushes with Cancer celebration on April 10th, where the selected pairs met in person for the first time, and the artwork was officially revealed and put up for auction. 

Twist Out Cancer was founded on the belief that when you share the world opens up. Harnessing the power of personal connection and community, Twist Out Cancer aims to support those touched by cancer both online and in person. For the first time, Brushes with Cancer integrated and embraced the virtual space. This year with the help of Dan Hadad Aviad, Twist Out Cancer Board Chair, and Dan Fricker, Social Media Liason, Brushes with Cancer connected and integrated the virtual inpatient population. Working in conjunction with Northwestern Memorial Hospital and the Lurie Cancer Center, the event was livestreamed and broadcasted to the inpatient cancer ward located 2 blocks away from the live event. In addition to the livestream, cancer survivors who were unable to attend the event were encouraged to put out meaningful challenges on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter using the official #brusheswithcancer hashtag. 

Suleika Jaouad, Emmy Award Winning New York Times Journalist and fellow cancer survivor was the keynote speaker. Due to a recent infection caused by continued chemotherapy, Suleika was unable to attend the event in person, however she was able to connect in the virtual space where she gave the keynote address and challenged the audience to #KissAwayCancer. While Brushes with Cancer had over 400 attendees in the physical space, it managed to touch hundreds of thousands in the virtual space. As Twist Out Cancer continues to grow, the hope is to continue to create experiences where the physical and virtual space intersects in meaningful and impactful ways.