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Under-40 Survivors Say ‘I’m Too Young For This!’

CancerWise - September 2008

By Darcy De Leon

Cancer survivors between 15 and 40 years old may feel isolated, but more of them are realizing they’re not alone, thanks to a Web site called I’m Too Young For This! or i[2]y.

Voted one of Time magazine’s 50 Best Web sites in 2007, the site gives visitors a place to meet others like themselves, get help with age-specific issues related to cancer, and become involved with the adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer movement.

Anger leads to action

Founder and CEO Matthew Zachary, 34, started the i[2]y site in 2006 in response to a National Cancer Institute report describing the poor state of survival for patients between 15 and 39.

The report angered the 12-year brain cancer survivor. “The five-year survival rate had not improved since 1977. The report explained that the top three reasons were late diagnosis, lack of clinical trials and lack of age-appropriate peer support.”

When the report was released, other Web sites existed for AYA survivors, but Zachary saw a need to bring all those resources together under one umbrella.

“Someone had to come along and develop a national brand and build a community,” says Zachary, who worked in advertising before his diagnosis. “i[2]y is a trusted, open-source, social media-friendly site that speaks the language of the youth culture.”

One of the site’s popular resources is a weekly webcast called “The Stupid Cancer Show,” hosted by Zachary. Guests include young cancer advocates, celebrity survivors, medical experts, bloggers, artists and others with something to say about cancer. During the broadcast, listeners can get involved in the show and with each other through a live chat room.

Site has something for providers, too

Physicians like the site because they can download information on young-adult cancer and give it to patients. More than 405 cancer centers now distribute i[2]y materials so far.

“The buy-in from providers is extraordinary,” Zachary says. “We’re making their lives easier. They’re largely not trained on how to communicate with young adult patients and don’t know where to get resources. At the least, doctors can let our Web site act as their interim digital social worker.”

The main thing about age-specific cancer sites like i[2]y is that it doesn’t limit providers and patients to a type of disease.

“It’s not about what kind of cancer you had,” Zachary says. “It’s that you’re here, and you look like me and you get it.”

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© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center