Today's guest blogger is concert pianist and cancer survivor, Matthew Zachary. He is also the Founder/CEO at Stupid Cancer, the nation’s dominant youth and young adult cancer brand. An agency veteran, he launched a social movement by innovating the nonprofit model through disruption and social entrepreneurship.
Stupid Cancer serves over 3 million individuals who are affected by young adult cancer each year. They are a bullhorn for social change and have drastically moved the needle on outcomes improvement for many thousands. www.stupidcancer.org
I am an 18-year survivor of pediatric brain cancer who was given a six month prognosis as a 21 year old college senior. I lost most of my friends, my career as a concert pianist, my fertility, my dignity and my identity. I struggled for almost a decade to find a place for myself in this world feeling completely isolated as if I were the only one out there with my story.
This is a near ubiquitous situation for those facing cancer in their teens, 20s and 30s. For adolescents and young adults ('AYA'), this is a time in your life when you're supposed to be moving forward, not taking 10 steps back.
AYA cancer is largely unknown in the war on cancer with 72,000 new diagnoses each year. That's one every eight minutes. This neglected group—now millions strong—has limited resources, inadequate support, and, more importantly, a lack of awareness and understanding from the community around them.
I founded Stupid Cancer in 2007 to try and change all that. Seven years later, the charity is the nation's dominant oncology brand in the sector and it has spawned a national movement propelling the change we wish to see.
Across 40 years, survival rates and quality of life for AYAs have not nearly improved at the same rates as other age groups, regardless of cancer type. This is not OK.
Why? The reasons are hilariously complicated but the low hanging fruit is that even the most basic improvements in outcomes could be made possible by something as simple as providing age-appropriate peer support.
Peer support saves lives. Yet, peer support for AYAs was virtually nonexistent for decades. Only now is it just beginning to hit its stride. No where is this more embodied than with Instapeer™, our revolutionary mobile app which stands to transform the cancer community forever. Instapeer is the first mobile platform of its kind that will do automatic, anonymous 1-to-1 peer matching. It is breathtaking, groundbreaking and it's got everyone talking.
It is a basic human right to survive with dignity and quality and to be treated age appropriately; and that means no survivor alone nor anyone made unaware of support resources to help them get busy living.
I have become the change I wish to see and now it's time to pay that forward and empower a new generation to believe it's possible.
This post was originally published on the PACE USA site.