In 1995, Matthew Zachary was a typical, yet talented, college student attending Binghamton University in upstate New York. While studying to become a music composer, Zachary was diagnosed with a brain cancer called medulloblastoma. After successfully fighting the cancer, Zachary founded I’m Too Young for This! to support young adult cancer patients and raise awareness of the precise needs of this community.
Young adult cancer patients face a variety of hurdles along their medical journeys. While survival rates for young children and elderly cancer patients increased over the past few decades, rates for 15 to 40 year-olds are unchanged. According to Zachary, "Delayed diagnosis has proven to be a significant contributor as to why young adults have not seen the same improvement in survival rates as other age groups over the past 30 years." Zachary was himself left undiagnosed for 6 months and tries to prevent this from occurring again through persistent outreach to primary care physicians.
Once patients are diagnosed, doctors often fail inform them about young adult-specific issues, such as the effect of cancer therapies on fertility. Since most cancer research and clinical trials are currently performed on the elderly, cutting-edge cancer treatments are also tailored to older people. I’m Too Young for This! “taps into the anger and hostility of young cancer patients,” who feel ignored by the medical community, says Zachary.
I’m Too Young for This! also hosts informal Happy Hours across the country and an Annual Gala to promote its mission and provide entertainment to young cancer patients. It is also developing additional events that will connect patients undergoing treatment, those in remission, and healthcare professionals in a continuing effort to ensure that young cancer patients get the best support possible.