This month we are extremely excited to have Matthew Zachary as our Man of the Month! Matthew is the CEO/Founder of Stupid Cancer – an organization focused on empowering young people who have cancer. He is the face of the next generation leader for meaningful, community driven health innovation.
We caught up with Matthew to get some additional insight on his background and Stupid Cancer.
Disruptive Women (DW): Tell us a bit about your background and how cancer has personally touched your life.
Matthew Zachary (MZ): I am, by trade, a concert pianist and film composer. Six months shy of graduation from college and matriculating in a graduate program at USC Film School, I was diagnosed with aggressive, pediatric brain cancer (medulloblastoma). I lost the use of my left hand, was told I’d never play piano again and – if I survived the ensuing six months — I’d have only a 50% chance to survive for five years post-treatment. I was 21 years old.
DW: What is Stupid Cancer and how did all that get started?
MZ: Stupid Cancer started off as The I’m Too Young For This! Cancer Foundation back in 2007 with the single purpose to empower young adults affected by cancer. The website was a glorified yellow pages with targeted content, resources and information exclusive to the unique needs of the young adult cancer survivor or caregiver.
Six months later, it was ranked #17 on the TIME Magazine Best 50 Website list and became an instant hit within the community and its nascent activist movement. Now over five years later, as the nation’s largest support community for this underserved population, Stupid Cancer serves as a bullhorn to propel young adult cancer movement forward. With a focus on survivorship, we connect survivors to each other and the world around them with the resources to get busy living.
DW: We are definitely living in an age of constant media creation, digital tools, immediate feedback and changing of the status quo. How do you attribute these aspects to the proliferation of Stupid Cancer?
MZ: There would be no young adult cancer movement without social media. It is a catalyzed product of confluence and serendipity because the science and the culture converged at the right place and the right time.
DW: Do you think this model/revolution can apply to other diseases that young people are facing?
MZ: Big yes. Within the young adult health care space, I see cancer as a vertical market in complement to chronic diseases such as Type 1 Diabetes, MS, Crohn’s, Lupus and others. There is a lot of potential to do a great deal of good.
DW: What do the next 5 years look like for Stupid Cancer and how can people get involved or help?
MZ: More alcohol, please.
But seriously, we have pioneered a new space at the nexus if digital health, social media, youth culture and targeted content. As a brand, we’re here to stay and are proud to take our place as a key player and opinion leader on behalf of millions of Americans and beyond. We have a responsibility to honor where we came from, who made us possible and stay committed to innovation, excellence and – above all – mission.
The next five years will be vastly different from the first five. We have the leadership, the intelligence and the wisdom of learning from our mistakes to super-scale our impact and widen our social footprint, making an even bigger dent in the inequity facing the next generation. We have become the change we wanted to see.