Kenny and Abby Lapins make Brushes with Cancer a family event


Abby Lapins has been familiar with Twist Out Cancer for some time. Her father, Kenny, is not only responsible for the organization’s tagline, but he also serves on the board and has been a multi-year Brushes with Cancer Artist and Inspiration. 

Abby attended Brushes with Cancer events to support her father’s role with Twist Out Cancer, and now she is being honored alongside Kenny as part of Arsht Performing Arts Center’s Brushes with Cancer program. 

“It’s nice to share this experience with Abby,” Kenny said. “She’s someone who has a lot to offer, and I always wanted to get her involved.”

Abby says the Dec. 2, 2023, Brushes with Cancer gala motivated her to get involved. 

“Howard’s speech brought me to literal tears,” she said. “I was so moved by what he had to say and share.”

Abby is referring to 2023’s Shawn Strong recipient Howard Aaron, who was paired with Artist Chelsea Lewis-Bahr.

“I saw how impactful brushes can be from hearing that speech,” she said. “I wanted to get involved and find that feeling of a place to support you. I looked at Dad and said, ‘I’m gonna start volunteering with you because it’s a great organization and I feel like I have something to offer.’”


Don’t tell the kids

Abby was touched by cancer at six years old. That’s when Kenny was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Her sister Rachel was an infant at the time.

“My dad is my best friend and we didn’t know that he had cancer until years and years later,” Abby said. 

It was her babysitter who spilled the beans while making ice cream sundaes with Abby. 

“She looked at me and said ‘How’s your dad?’”

The question confused Abby, so the babysitter elaborated. That’s when Abby learned her father was hiding something from her. At first, Abby was angry that Kenny hid his cancer diagnosis and treatment from her and her sister.

“I was viscerally angry when I found out they kept it from me,” she said. “You should know when your parents have cancer.”

She now understands why her dad made his choice.

“I’m grateful because I’m sure it would’ve been crazy jarring for a six-year-old.”

Ultimately, it was a decision Kenny made with his oncologist. 

“Just so you don’t think we’re heartless, the oncologist said you probably shouldn’t tell the kids,” he said with a laugh. 


Leaning on one another

When Abby became sick in September 2023, she moved in with Kenny. She has been chronically ill most of her life but has been “effectively bedridden” since the fall. Luckily, Abby has what she calls “relentless optimism” toward life.

“It’s hard to remain optimistic when you are chronically or terminally ill, so I spend a lot of time focusing on the joy in my life.”

Kenny’s life outlook mirrors Abby’s. 

“Outcomes don’t happen, events happen,” he said. “The way the outcome comes to fruition is your reaction to it.”

In addition to the support they receive from one another, Kenny and Abby are supported by their Brushes with Cancer Artists, Daniel Acero and Marea Cordero, respectively. Kenny has served as an Inspiration twice and this is Abby’s first time as an Inspiration. It’s an opportunity to explore her cancer experience further. 

“While I didn’t experience it while it was happening, the chances are high that my dad is probably going to get cancer again,” Abby said. “Knowing my dad is gonna die from cancer, it’s a hard feeling to grapple with. All children theoretically lose their parents at some point in life. But it’s not comforting to know how they’re going to die.”

Through working with her Artist, whose husband is a cancer survivor, Abby could better understand her father’s choices during his cancer treatment and diagnosis.

“Her kids are around the same age I was when my dad was sick,” Abby said. “She had a lot to share about being a mother in a family and gave me perspective on what it’s like for parents with kids.” 

Likewise, Abby can share how she felt as a child to help her Artist better understand her kids. It’s one of the ways relationships in the Brushes with Cancer program go past an Artist supporting an Inspiration. 

“All the other cancer organizations raise money and give it to a research organization for a cure,” Kenny said. “That’s great but it’s not going to benefit anyone in the short term. Twist Out Cancer benefits people immediately.”