Over the last two years I have spent a great deal of time connecting with other cancer survivors to learn about their unique experiences in managing their illness. Some of these survivors describe feelings of isolation, loneliness, ostracism and misunderstanding, whereas others describe unprecedented love and support. Some survivors describe their experiences as colored by profound loss and repeated victimization where as others describe it as a journey filled with countless blessings.
What is clear is that there is not one cancer narrative— not one coping strategy— nor one particular model patient experience we can look to mimic or follow. And perhaps our experiences and the way we choose to describe them are influenced by where we stand. Are we recently diagnosed, currently in treatment, recently relapsed or post treatment? The options are endless and the words we choose to describe our stories can quickly change depending on where we are at.
In my case, with little to no statistics or research to explain my diagnosis and treatment regimen, I realized early on that I felt empowered by writing my own story. Writing became my primary coping mechanism for how to navigate an experience that was traumatic, chaotic, yet undeniably mine. As I felt increasingly lonely and isolated, I was deeply concerned that I would eventually lose my own voice. There were times when I appeared silent, but I was really screaming. And there were times when I was screaming, yet struggling to speak.
In a failed attempt to preserve the voice I once knew and once loved, I ended up by accident discovering a more authentic self. This self was braver, more courageous, and more giving. This self was determined to raise awareness, educate and find an outlet for my creativity.
The voice that I was so desperately clinging to was no longer the voice that I needed.
And today, I have recognized that the voice I had during treatment is no longer relevant for my here and now.
Our voices, our narratives, our twists on cancer are ever- changing.
Perhaps through writing, through art, through music, our voices then and now can and will always be preserved.
On April 17, 2013, Twist Out Cancer will launch, "Brushes With Cancer: Pairing Artists and Survivors to Create For a Cause." This event will celebrate survivorship and hope through art, music and storytelling. Over the next few months, survivors will be asked to share their “Twist On Cancer,” (lessons learned, fighting strategies and new perspectives) with our online community of support. Their ‘twists’ will serve as inspiration for local and international artists to create unique pieces of art. The art will be auctioned online and in person at the Twist With An Artist Benefit taking place on April 17, 2013 in Chicago.
At the event, participating survivors will have the opportunity to share their “Twist on Cancer”, and the artists they inspire will discuss their creative processes and reveal their final works of art. All proceeds will go directly to the Twist community.
Inspirational stories of hope will be provided by:
Jenna Benn, Founder of Twist Out Cancer
Jonny Immerman, Founder of Immerman’s Angels
Ethan Zohn, Two Time Cancer Survivor and Winner of Survivor Africa
Music Provided by Palter Ego
Commentary provided by Anthony Ponce, General Assignment Reporter at NBC5
Call For Submissions
Twist Out Cancer is calling upon survivors to share their twist on cancer between now and February 28, 2013. To submit your Twist On Cancer click here.
Selected artists will have the opportunity to showcase their art online and person. The art will be displayed and auctioned at Twist Out Cancer’s annual benefit taking place in Chicago on April 17, 2013. Proceeds from the auction will go toward furthering Twist Out Cancer’s mission.
If you are interested in participating as an artist please contact me at Jenna@twistoutcancer.org.