Brushes with Cancer Kicks Off with an Unprecedented Attendance and Growth


Jenna Benn Shersher, Founder of Twist Out Cancer is a 33-year-old cancer survivor, civil rights advocate, world traveler and tiny twister who dreams big. In December 2010, Jenna was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder called Grey Zone Lymphoma that affects fewer than 300 people in the United States. Instead of surrendering to cancer, she was determined to find meaning in her suffering. In the course of her fight, Jenna figured out creative ways to leverage social media to process her experience, and in turn create a community of tiny twisters that became invested in her fight. In the course of a year, Jenna battled cancer and started a nonprofit called Twist Out Cancer—a Support Community. With A Twist. Twist Out Cancer changes the way a survivor shares and the way a community gives. To date over 35,000 people have twisted out cancer. Jenna is a blogger for the Huffington Post and Oy Chicago and has made television appearances on CNN, NBC5, CBS, ABC7 and Fox News. She has also been featured in the New York Times, Mashable, LA Times, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun Times. Jenna is a mentor angel with Imerman’s angels, and serves on the Patient Advisory Board of Northwestern Hospital. In addition she is an Honored Hero and advocate for Team in Training and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. When Jenna isn’t twisting, you can find her working full-time at the Anti-Defamation League where she oversees young leadership programming, media and PR and international affairs advocacy.

On November 6, 2014, over 120 people joined Twist Out Cancer for our official kick off party titled “Brushes With Cancer: Pairing Artists with Those Touched by Cancer to Create for a Cause,” at the Matthew Rachman Gallery in Chicago Illinois. Brushes With Cancer is a four month program that matches artists with those touched by cancer. This unique celebration of survivorship and hope pairs those touched by cancer (previvors, survivors and caregivers) with talented artists working in a variety of mediums. Those touched by cancer share their ‘twist on cancer’—lessons learned, fighting strategies, and new perspectives—with their respective artist. These “twists” serves as the inspiration for the unique pieces of artwork that are created in their honor.The program culminates with a celebratory annual event and fundraiser in which the pairs connect in person and the artwork is revealed for the first time.

Since its inception in 2012, 43 pairs have been matched, 55 works of art have been created, and over 1,000 people have participated in the celebratory events in the Chicagoland area. In 2015 and 2016, Brushes with Cancer will debut in Detroit, Toronto and Tel Aviv. “Telling my story in this context and through this creative process was better than any kind of therapy,”said Amy, who lost her mother to ovarian cancer and who is herself both a survivor of kidney cancer and a ‘previvor’ who was diagnosed with the BRCA2 gene.

This year, due to the rapid growth of the program, Twist Out Cancer decided to launch an official kick-off event which served a dual purpose- to educate the public about the program and bring together alumni to reconnect. The Kick Off was in many ways the catalyst for the program’s exponential growth. This year we had 75 applicants for a coveted 25 spots. Brushes with Cancer will premier in Chicago on February 21st, 2015 at Chez. If you are interested in participating in Detroit, Toronto or Tel Aviv please contact Jenna Benn Shersher, Founder and Executive Director of Twist Out Cancer. At the event, four of our featured survivors and artists gave passionate accounts of their transformative experiences in the program. The evening was particularly moving, as we were able to see firsthand the lives that we were touching. To hear the personal accounts of those that have experienced healing and support, further reiterates the critical importance of addressing the often underrepresented psycho-social needs of cancer survivors and supporters.

The support of the ROI community throughout this process has been astounding. On behalf of the Twist Out Cancer community, I am so grateful for your continued generosity. We look forward to the continued relationship in the years to come. To learn more about Brushes with Cancer click here.