What Jenna Koch gained after she lost her father to cancer

When Jenna Koch learned about Twist Out Cancer, her mind immediately went to her dad, Danny, who passed away after a three-year cancer journey. 

“When I saw Twist Out Cancer, I thought ‘This is so my dad,’” Jenna said. “He loved art. He was so creative and super open. … He was the best example of sharing with other people.”

Early in his cancer diagnosis, Danny and Jenna did paintings together. It was one of the many ways he chose to focus on life’s positive moments during his diagnosis. 

“Not a day went by that he wasn’t showing his love for us and was grateful for simply being alive,” Jenna said.  “And now, on days when I’m like, ‘I have so much to do!’ I think of him and have a little perspective.”

These are lessons she’s kept with her years after his passing. 

“During his cancer, my dad was the greatest teacher I’ve ever had or ever will have.”

After Jenna learned about art’s healing abilities through Twist Out Cancer, she pulled the collaborative paintings back out to give them new life. Using new colors and abstract techniques, Jenna has added to the paintings—a continuation of what she began with her father. Currently, one of her updated paintings is hanging at her home.

“They’d possibly be still sitting in our basement if it weren’t for Twist Out Cancer,” she said.

Additionally, healing has spread throughout the family. Her aunt, Cathy Reilly, participated as a Brushes with Cancer Inspiration in 2022 and was matched with Artist Jeannine Baldomero. 

“She’s very shy, very reserved and a good example of someone Twist Out Cancer could impact,” Jenna said. “She didn’t know how to bring him up but the ability for it to be expressed through art, she could never express that through conversation.”


Storytelling’s power 

In these last few years, Jenna, who assists Twist Out Cancer with programs and communications, has discovered support she didn’t know she needed. 

“I didn’t really understand the power of sharing my experience of cancer with other people because I wasn’t the patient or because someone had it worse,” she said. “I didn’t want to attract attention to it and I think when I joined Twist, I understood the value of speaking it to somebody.”

She remembers a moment during college when she had an opportunity to open up but didn’t. Her roommate asked if her parents were coming for the school’s parents’ weekend. Avoiding the topic, Jenna simply said ‘No.’

“I think back to that moment versus now and I have zero barriers in talking about my dad,” Jenna said. “It has only made my life more enriched by being able to have conversations and not feel uncomfortable about it.”

The experience has even given her a special perspective. 

“I never want to stop talking about him,” she said. “If I didn’t share, his legacy would drift away. So, Twist Out Cancer has encouraged me to lean into those sharing moments.”


Combining her passions with Team Twist


An athlete since childhood, Jenna has also turned to CrossFit as a vessel for healing. She loved the community atmosphere, diversity and ability to go at your own pace. 

“It brought back that idea of being in community with people and doing something hard.”

Prior misconceptions almost kept her from that community but when she arrived with an open mind, she saw how accessible the sport is.

“I know a lot of people have a misconception that CrossFit is dangerous,” she said. “I had that perception but when I started it, I was surrounded by a 65-year-old person doing the same movement as me with PVC pipe, and another person was 13 years old. Seeing that, I knew it was scalable.”

Around the time she formed her CrossFit family, Twist Out Cancer was forming Team Twist, a fundraising program built around competitive events. It was the perfect timing for Jenna to combine two very different passions. 

Jenna was already competing in CrossFit events, and Team Twist offered an opportunity to incorporate a fundraising component into her training and competing. So far, she has competed in three events and raised $1,750 for Twist Out Cancer with the help of 15 donors. Additionally, her best friend, whom she met at CrossFit, is now part of the fundraising effort. Through Team Twist, Jenna connects the two biggest contributors to her healing process. 

“The ability to combine these two pieces of my life that have helped shape my identity is such a meaningful way to honor my dad,” Jenna said. “My dad was unique in his ability to connect with others and Twist has opened the opportunity for me to tap into that trait I must have gotten from him.”

To learn more about Team Twist or start your own team, visit our website here.