Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Revitializing the Support Group

One alcoholic beverage at a time

Matthew Zachary doesn’t take shit from anybody. Not from the government, not from the establishment (think Manhattan, where he lives), and especially not from cancer. As a 21-year-old college student and aspiring musician, he was diagnosed with pediatric brain cancer (medulloblastona) and has become the fearless leader of Gen X/Y hipsters who find cancer, well, stupid.

Zachary is the Founder and Executive Director of I’m Too Young For This! Cancer Foundation, the nation's fastest growing advocacy, support and research organization working exclusively on behalf of survivors and care providers under the age of 40. Zachary has created a place for young adults (15-39) to seek help, support, and the facts.

Yes, it sucks but at least you're not alone. So, welcome to the club no one wants to belong to. You might as well make the most of it and get busy living by diving in head first. Stupid cancer.

Oh, so the next time your hospital tells you "Our support groups are for adults." or when the little old ladies in the chemo infusion say "You poor thing.", or when a random friend asks, "What no kids yet? What are you waiting for?" or when someone on the street shouts out "Nice Hair!", for the first time in history, someone's got your back. We do.

Zachary’s success can be directly contributed to his irreverent and hip approach to talking about cancer. What is even more impressive is his magnetism at getting other’s to talk about cancer, at bars all over the world.

Stupid Cancer Happy Hour sort of sprung out of nowhere,” Zachary said. “I figured if our generation was going to spend money, they would want to spend it on alcohol. Young adult survivors can get together without judging each other for only having one ball or one boob,” Zachary said.

This kind of socializing is redefining the way cancer is viewed and discussed. Many cancer patients and survivors find yoga classes a form of social support; young adults are finding support and friendship while sipping a martini.

“We are exercising our rights in a non-threatening, non-clinical environment, in an environment that will end isolation,’ he said. “This is a new model of ending isolation. Whether it’s doing top dog (he means down-ward facing dog, and we both laugh) or meeting for a drink, there is an evolution of the support group.”

[His ultimate vision] is to be the progressive, creative and disruptive voice for the young adult demographic in a future where the burden of cancer is marginalized to that of a manageable chronic condition—similar to HIV and diabetes—in a future where it is unilaterally accepted that survivorship is the cure to cancer.

Zachary is an example to all of us.

“Get busy living,” he says. “You feel like crap and your living. What other options do you have?”

For more information on Matthew Zachary or his organization, click here.


Halle Tecco said...

I2Y is an incredibly progressive, successful organization that is doing more than just providing support for young adult survivors: they are also starting a movement for OUR generation to do something about this problem.

In a short period of time, I2Y has become a model for how to run and grow a non-profit. With this track record, they are bound to take on the world and win this war in just a few years. Rock on I2Yr's!

Tom Murdock said...

i2y rules! Matt has changed the way cancer is viewed among young adults - and he's done it in less than 2 years. This oganization will be the biggest thing to hit the cancer scene!

Ellen Tupman said...

Stupid Cancer Happy Hour is held in SF every month! Join our Facebook group for all the SF i[2]y happenings.

Thanks for the support Halle!

Stupid Cancer! Get busy Living!