When you see the website for Stupidcancer.org, you quickly realize it’s not exactly your typical patient support organization.
For starters, there’s that name. Then there are the wristbands that feature a raised middle finger toward cancer. And another style with a bird that bears the same message.
It’s all part of the organization’s efforts to reach young adult cancer patients, defined as those between ages 15 and 39. That’s a group that’s often overlooked by more traditional organizations, and even by researchers, said Kenny Kane, the group’s chief operating officer.
Stupid Cancer is the result of founder Matthew Zachary’s own experience. Diagnosed with a brain tumor in 1995 at age 21, he found that resources were few for young adult patients. And data from the National Institutes of Health showed patients in the 15-39 age group died more frequently than either younger or older patients.
“He thought it was pretty messed up,” Kane said. So Zachary started a foundation that evolved into Stupid Cancer, a major resource for young adult patients.
“We like to think that we are speaking to a generation of cancer survivors in their 20s and 30s in a meaningful way,” Kane said.
Stupid Cancer offers programs, support and a caring community of like-minded people to young adult cancer patients. It also hosts an annual conference that brings together survivors, caregivers and supporters to talk about what matters to them.
“That’s really the crown jewel of our organization. People just know that their friends are going to be there,” Kane said. “Conversations get really serious, really personal.”
Zachary, a survivor himself, remains the organization’s CEO. He brought in Kane five years ago. As part of their branding, Stupid Cancer goes for an unorthodox approach such as the “birdie” wristbands.
“We are edgy, but respectful,” Kane said. “People recognize our brand.”
Young adult cancer patients often feel isolated when diagnosed. More traditional support organizations sometimes don’t recognize the unique concerns of young patients, Kane added.
“A lot of my friends in their 20s with breast cancer, they don’t relate to someone in their 50s who’s not looking to go out on Friday night and meet somebody. We’re meeting people where they’re at.”
That’s important when people are newly diagnosed.
“It just seems like when people have been diagnosed with cancer, they’re just kind of floating out in the galaxy, and they’re looking for something to grab onto,” Kane said. “They find community in our demographic.”
The wristbands from TJM promotions are a popular item in Stupid Cancer’s online store. Kane estimates they’ve sold about 100,000 wristbands.
“Everybody loves the product. It’s a low-cost option that allows people to join us, to support their loved ones,” he said. “It’s empowering. When you print Stupid Cancer on a wristband, it’s a lot of people walking around with our brand. It’s membership.”
All of us at TJM appreciate the work of Stupid Cancer, and are honored to be able to play a small part in this great organization’s mission.
P.S. Interested in lending a helping hand? Visit http://stupidcancer.org/action/index.shtml for more information on what you can do to get involved with the organization and your local community.