Brushes With Cancer


A Caregivers Story; Artist Meg Frazer
36"x48" Oil on Canvas
Photo property of Brushes With Cancer, used with permission

Jenna Benn Shersher is an unstoppable force of nature. In 2010, she was just 29 when she was diagnosed with a rare cancer- grey zone lymphoma. During medical treatment, Benn Shersher was determined not to throw herself a pity party and instead threw herself a dance party of sorts. She filmed herself doing "The Twist", as in Chubby Checker, and shared her video online. Benn Shersher asked viewers to join her in doing "The Twist", and she received an outstanding response. Soon thousands of people online were doing their own version of "The Twist". Overwhelmed with these positive responses, she decided upon completion of her treatment that she would create an organization to give back. This is how Twist Out Cancer was hatched.

Benn Shersher's twist on cancer is literal and figurative. She encourages each person impacted by cancer to create their own 'twist' perspective of what they learned from their experience with cancer. From Twist Out Cancer, she created Brushes with Cancer after Anna Swarthout, a grey zone lymphoma cancer survivor talked to Benn Shersher about having an artist create a piece of art without using the color grey. The art would represent a part of Swarthout's journey. From this conversation Brushes With Cancer was born.

The Brushes With Cancer artists are paired with a person impacted by cancer. This could be the cancer survivor, a person currently undergoing cancer treatment or a caregiver. A unique piece of art is created for this person. The art pieces are auctioned off at a gala, and all proceeds go back to the program.

This year the Chicago gala was held at Chez. It was here where I had the honor of meeting Helen Kornick, a mother impacted by cancer. Kornick introduced me to her family, and proudly showed me the piece of art that was created for her own journey.

Although, Helen Kornick and I met for the first time at Chez, we are both bonded by a terrible disease. Both of our loved ones died as a result of adrenal cancer. In 2007, my late husband received the diagnosis, and in 2008 Kornick's daughter, Heather was also given the same news. By coincidence, both of our loved ones were treated at the University of Michigan Adrenal Cancer Center.

Sadly, in 2013 Kornick's daughter died at age 25, and thus began a journey of healing for Kornick. Through the Brushes With Cancer program, she was linked with artist Meg Frazier. Kornick reveals,"I credit the Brushes With Cancer project with assisting and expediting my healing."

Kornick was paired with Frazier and they developed an open line of communication that focused on bringing to light Kornick's role as caregiver in her daughter's illness. Kornick adds, "Meg insisted I focus on my role in Heather's journey as her primary caregiver."

Chicago artist Meg Frazer, owner of Both Sides Gallery, spends her days as an artist and teacher helping others understand the importance of art therapy, the process of making art, and how art has an aesthetic purpose beyond beauty. Frazer says, "Working with Helen was a rare experience for me as a mentor. She came to me asking for help in relaying through her art piece the emotions that she felt as a caregiver of her young daughter and that to me seemed almost impossible."

Through a series of classes and multiple paintings Frazer and Kornick were able to work through what Frazer refers to as "a process of reflection" with the art piece as the outcome. Frazer adds, "To see Helen vulnerable to the experience and open to creating something full of meaning was incredible."

Frazier was quick to recognize that Kornick juggled multiple roles as caregiver, mother, wife, sister, and created the piece titled, "Spinning Plates- A Caregiver's Story." Kornick found healing in being a part of this creative process. "I was able to transform my perception of being simply in an invisible role in the shadow of my daughter's story to seeing myself as the empowered woman."

To Learn More About Brushes With Cancer you can visit here

To Learn About Adrenal Cancer you can go here

Artist Meg Frazer can be contacted here

Kristin Meekhof's forthcoming book is A Widow's Guide to Healing: Gentle Support and Advice for the First Five Years", is available in November 2015. You can follow her here

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