When I was diagnosed with gray zone lymphoma at 29 years old, I craved connection and missed my body’s ability to move the way it did before diagnosis. So, I focused on what I could do, and I could still do The Twist.
Wanting to connect with and be seen by others, I uploaded a 35-second video of me doing The Twist. Within a few days, thousands of people watched me do The Twist, with many joining me with their videos.
The momentum helped me create Twist Out Cancer, a nonprofit that uses creative arts therapy to support individuals touched by cancer. In 12 years, we’ve served 256,000 people.
Key programming includes Twistshops — art therapy workshops — and Brushes with Cancer, where an individual touched by cancer is paired with an artist tasked with creating a piece inspired by their match’s journey. Initially strangers, the two connect over four months, creating a space to share and heal.
Working with licensed professionals to tap into art’s therapeutic properties is necessary to our programming, so we rely on Clinical Director Ana Gordon, LCSW and Director of Twistshops Jacqueline Carmody, LCPC, ATR-BC to ensure we provide the highest quality programming.
Falling Back on Our Virtual Roots
For myself, and I’m sure many others touched by cancer, the global pandemic triggered complicated memories. Oncology patients, who already see a depression rate three times higher than the general population, experienced exacerbated loneliness and symptom burden.
Our community knew it was necessary to continue with art therapy programming and turned to virtual options — easier said than done. An American Art Therapy Association survey found three-quarters of art therapists struggled with the virtual art making process. So, when we shifted to virtual Twistshops for the first time, Carmody rose to the occasion. We increased our Twistshops to weekly events for a short time and used that space to sort through thoughts related to the pandemic.
A Bigger Focus on Program Accessibility
In 2020, we held our first fully virtual Brushes with Cancer Art Exhibition and Celebration.
With a successful event behind us, we increased our virtual programming, creating opportunities for new partnerships and community members. Since 2020, attendees have logged on from across the United States, Germany, the U.K. and more.
We know art has therapeutic properties. Not everyone, however, can access art. Black and Hispanic students have roughly half the arts access their white peers have. And while 91.7% of Americans have vehicle access, lack of transportation prevents thousands from enriching experiences. In addition to making events safe for our core community, virtual programming also helps us reach underserved communities. To provide further access, JOANN has donated art making supplies that we’ve turned into Twist Kits for those who can’t afford their own supplies.
In 2024, we will continue our hybrid model while increasing opportunities. We now host monthly Twistshops and have licensed our Brushes with Cancer program to accommodate more participants.
How to Help:
To learn more about Twist Out Cancer’s licensed programs, head here.
To inquire about having Brushes with Cancer in your workplace, email [email protected].
Support Twist Out Cancer by donating: