Like many in my generation, when confronted with something I’ve never heard of before, I google it. I will never forget googling anaplastic astrocytoma grade III after being told that my 25 year old friend Shannon was diagnosed with brain cancer. That definitely wasn’t a good google search. Being a young adult and receiving the news that your even younger friend has a terminal cancer is indescribable. As my friends and I attempted to support Shannon and one another, a colleague of mine mentioned a non-profit focused on the unique needs of young adults with cancer–Stupid Cancer.
Stupid Cancer was founded in 2007 by Matthew Zachary, a young adult brain cancer survivor, and has become the largest US-based charity that comprehensively addresses young adult cancer through advocacy, research, support, outreach, awareness, mobile health and social media. The organization has proudly emerged as the dominant support community and social influencer for this underserved population and now serves as a bullhorn for the young adult cancer movement.
In those first few weeks after Shannon’s diagnosis, my friends and I worked vigorously to compile lists of doctors, research, and resources, and in so doing we reached out to Stupid Cancer. The unknown and chaos of cancer is only compounded by the unknown and chaos of being a young adult. Will Shannon be able to have children…does she even want children? Will her hair fall out? Will she get to fall in love and get married? What if she doesn’t live long enough… How will the brain surgery impact who she is? Will she be able to work? And on, and on, and on. For all of the questions and worries I thought of and googled, I can’t imagine (and have always found it too difficult to imagine) how Shannon felt. True to form, Shannon put on a brave face and made a joke or two or three.
Through all of that uncertainty though, we had Stupid Cancer. They served as a resource and support to my friends and me. Whether it was The Stupid Cancer Show, their award-winning talk radio podcast, the OMG! Cancer Summit, or Team Stupid Cancer, anytime we participated in one of Stupid Cancer’s programs we felt connected to a group of people who understood us, supported us, and above all else encouraged us to get busy living. Now, after nearly nine years in existence Stupid Cancer has been named a TIME Magazine Best 50 Website, a Top 10 Healthcare Blog by FOX News, and was accredited by the Washington Post as “an unparalleled resource for cancer patients in their teens, 20s and 30s.”
Beyond the recognition and amazing programming, Stupid Cancer is run by people who care, who I can call on and know that they will help in whatever way they can. My participation on Team Stupid Cancer has also given me a national network of friends who I continue to be connected with on Facebook and wouldn’t have known had it not been for them.
This year, I will run on Team Stupid Cancer for the third time, the first since losing Shannon in March of 2013. I hope that you will consider supporting my run and Stupid Cancer in their continued efforts to build a community of young adults who believe as Shannon did, that in the face of cancer, we better get busy living.