His story is awe-inspiring...
A grim prognosis and horrific roller coaster experience twists and turns into a beautiful and unexpected story of victory that impacts thousands of lives.
You should read the whole thing, it's dramatic! But here's a summary:
Matthew Zachary is 21 years old in the early winter of 1995 with a dazzlingly bright future and dreams larger than life when symptoms of a neurological issue become too debilitating to ignore.
After many misdiagnoses by campus doctors from the flu to Multiple Sclerosis, an MRI reveals a golf ball-sized growth in the college senior's brain and an extremely risky yet successful 8-hour surgery ensues. Pathology confirms it's medulloblastoma.
His case is so rare due to his age - nearly all pediatric medulloblastomas occur in children under the age of 12 - that doctors have no scientific data with which to form a post-surgical treatment plan. Knowing he may have as little as 6 months to live, Matthew reviews the pros and cons of the available treatment options, each a shot in the dark. Aiming for quality over quantity of life, and with "a roll of the dice," he says, Matthew decides to turn down chemotherapy and endures 33 treatments of agonizing radiation treatments to his head, neck and spine.
One month later he gets clear scans and is told there is no sign of cancer in his body, though he is still plagued with the side effects of his surgery and radiation treatments. True to his "get busy living" mantra, he pulls a Houdini and returns to school after spring break (against doctor's orders), completes his course work while somehow simultaneously producing a musical (book, music, lyrics) and graduates from college that May as a 22-year-old cancer survivor.
Today, 20 years later, Matthew is the healthy and happy founder and CEO of a nonprofit organization called Stupid Cancer, "the largest charity that comprehensively addresses young adult cancer through advocacy, research, support, outreach, awareness, mobile health and social media."
Because of his own experience with the iniquities faced by the rapidly growing body of young adults diagnosed with cancer, such as "limited resources, inadequate support, and, more importantly, a lack of awareness and understanding from the community around them," Matthew now dedicates his life to ensure that no one goes through cancer alone.
If you're in the area, come join Matthew, me and others TOMORROW, Wednesday, January 20, from 6-9pm at the Madison Square Tavern in New York City as we celebrate the miracle of his 20 years in remission! All are welcome to join. Admission is free but RSVP is required and a $20 donation to Stupid Cancer is suggested.
Please register here if you are interested, I hope you can make it! :)
If you can't come but still want to get involved, you may donate, shop the Stupid Cancer store for yourself or someone you love and/or download the Instapeer app to connect with other people affected by young adult cancer.
Another important event to mention is CancerCon, held April 28 - May 1, 2016 in Denver, Colorado! "The largest gathering of its kind, CancerCon brings together hundreds of survivors, caregivers and advocates to connect, get educated, build community and unite to drive the change we wish to see."
Click here for more info. I unfortunately will not be able to attend, but I am sure it will be an event to remember!
With hope and love,
P.S. If someone you care about has been affected by young adult cancer - either a current patient, survivor or caregiver - please share this information about Stupid Cancer so they can learn about the resources available to them and connect with others facing a similar situation. "It's not about what you have. It's about what you have in common."