PHILADELPHIA - On North Third Street in Philadelphia, you'll find the Old City Jewish Art Gallery, an intimate space with 27 pieces of art. Each one was created by a different artist. Each one was inspired by someone.
Devon Messner, who lives in Exeter Township, was looking at the piece created about her.
"This is me and my two kids, surrounding myself with light," she said
Her children, Marina and Michael, are just 15 and 11.
"Waking up with joy is a major, major bonus," Messner said, "and I've decided to live my life with joy."
Even in the midst of so much darkness.
"I think I crossed my arms at one of the kid's soccer games, you know, just kind of like, really guys, and I was like, 'Oh, there's a little bump there,'" she explained.
The bump was about the size of a pea. She was told it was nothing, but in nine months, it had grown to the size of a ping pong ball, and at 38 years old, she was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer.
"I was completely blown away by the news," Messner said. "The whole time, I thought maybe it was just a cyst or something, not serious, because all my labs were great. I was as fit as I ever was, going to the gym seven days a week, working out, and I had no symptoms, definitely no symptoms of lung cancer."
She had brain surgery, a round of chemotherapy and part of her right lung removed. Eighteen months ago, she was declared cancer free, but as life would have it, two weeks ago, Messner found out the cancer is back.
"It just is what it is, you know. Life's not fair. Things aren't fair. I'll never understand why, but I'm so grateful," Messner said. "I've learned so much in the last 18 months, so I'm gearing up for another fight and I'm going to come out on the other side a winner."
Messner was matched with artist Marie McGrory, herself a childhood cancer survivor, through a program called "Brushes with Cancer." Twenty-seven people who have been touched by cancer were matched with 27 artists who created works of art to reflect all those journeys.
The program is an arm of the nonprofit Twist out Cancer, created by cancer survivor Jenna Benn Shersher. The name comes from the time during her own treatment, when Benn put out a video asking people to do the twist with her. A couple days later, there were thousands of people twisting out cancer, and she vowed to find a way to give back.
"I just hope it sparks people to think about not retreating," Shersher said. "This is figuring out a way to empower people so that they feel comfortable sharing and know that there's a community here to support them and encourage them to do that."
"The wound is the place where the light enters you," Messner said. "It really is. I was not the same person I am today before my diagnosis. I just hope that someone comes here and sees these works of art and know there is life beyond diagnosis, there is hope."