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Coronavirus Philadelphia: Twist Out Cancer Expanding Virtual Community To Help People Struggling With Anxiety

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Messages of hope to people who are isolated and stressed because of COVID-19 are coming from those touched by cancer. A program originally designed to help people cope with the fear and anxiety of cancer is now being expanded to help anyone struggling through the coronavirus pandemic.

The founder of Twist Out Cancer, who lives in Philadelphia, recognized those touched by cancer and those impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, have a lot in common.

"On the bottom, it's me going to a place of acceptance. What do I need to do to take care of myself?" Jackie Carmody said.

Carmody, an art therapist, is leading a one-hour long virtual workshop via Zoom. She's helping participants channel their creativity as a way to manage stress.

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"She designed this beautiful curriculum that really gets people together to open up about their experiences with loneliness, isolation, anxiety, whatever it is that they're dealing with," Jenna Benn Shersher said.

Benn Shersher founded Twist Out Cancer nearly a decade ago after battling lymphoma. The organization provides psycho-social support to those touched by cancer by the way of creative arts programs.

"Initially, it was just a virtual community because I had lots of limitations," she said. "My immune system was incredibly compromised, so I was stuck at home for almost a year with really limited interaction with the outside world."

When the COVID-19 pandemic began forcing people into isolation, Benn Shersher realized their programs could also help others.


"For the first time, we have people, literally from all over the globe, that are experiencing very similar type of restrictions that many cancer patients and their loved ones have to face when their immune systems are compromised," she said, "and they're scared to go out in public and be around other people.

"So what we've done is, we've taken the programs that we offer to our community of people that are touched by cancer and we now are opening them up to anyone that is feeling isolated and lonely."

The virtual workshops are free and take place every Tuesday at 2 p.m., but you have to register in advance by visiting the Twist Out Cancer website.

Also on their website, you'll find their "Resilience Campaign," which features inspiring videos from those touched by cancer as they cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

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