The Cancer Lifestyle
By Matthew Zachary
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Food For Thought.
I saw a huge billboard in NYC advertising for this website
Instead of ‘how a bill becomes a law’ I kept exploring the whole idea of
‘how a death sentence becomes a chronic condition’, not focusing on ‘why’
(public policy, medicine, prevention) but rather focusing, specifically, on
‘what next?’, i.e. the aftermath of social and cultural change that follows.
When a disease transforms from death sentence to chronic condition, does
this represent a tipping point for social change, fostering the genesis of
an entirely new, underserved demographic whose lifestyle and psychographic
behaviors hold the key to better serving their unique socioeconomic,
political and cultural needs through the balance of their extended
Does the early identification of this emerging population constitute fertile
opportunity for innovative ventures in social entrepreneurship that can
effectively address and identify these unique needs though moral and ethical
exploration both social (market research) and clinical (population science)?
Example: Diabetes and HIV were once a death sentence. Today they are chronic
conditions [in the US] which have been culturally desensitized and socially
destigmatized into the mainstream. The focus is no longer specifically our
favorite word ‘cure’ because death and suffering have, more or less, been
marginalized to the best extent that can be.
Progress not cure has yielded the need for MyHIVLife.com.
After all, “Living with it” is better than the alternative, right?
Is cancer in the United States following a similar trend?
I know it is. It already has.
Many doctors currently shy away from the word ‘cure’ even though it’s an
acknowledged scientific term with a Webster’s definition. It’s about
“survivorship” now, the quality and not necessarily quantity of your
How many “MyHIVLife.com”-type websites are there for cancer these days?
They’re popping up every day, raising public awareness, discussing the
‘lifestyle’ of what vigilant self-advocacy we as survivors must undertake
simply by living with, through and, hopefully, beyond our diagnosis.
And the word “beyond” is even losing meaning. Being told “you’re cured” is
not the end of story and, as too many already know, cancer can be the gift
that keeps on giving.
So the “survivorship” is the cancer lifestyle. What does it mean to be a
cancer patient? A suvivor? A caregiver? Especially if you’re under 40?
But that’s a whole other rant.
Food for thought.
Matthew Zachary is the Founder and CEO of I’m Too Young for This, the nation’s leading grassroots advocate for the next generation of cancer survivors and their caregivers in their late teens, 20s and 30s. A TIME Magazine Best 50 Website for 2007, they have helped bring the cause of ‘cancer under 40′ to the national spotlight and rallied a brand new generation of activists to ensure prompt detection, advocacy, research and support for this forgotten population.