What comes to mind when you hear advocacy? We all have been touched by cancer, and the medical effects are understood by many of us. However, the non-medical logistical issues are something that can be extremely difficult to navigate. After being diagnosed with brain cancer, Matthew Zachary has dedicated his life to advocacy, the act of making cancer suck less. Hear his story and learn about advocacy in this episode of the Strive for Great Health Podcast.
Lifestyle Medicine with Dr. Harris
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Dr. Richard Harris: [00:00:00] Hello, Dr. Richard Harris here. Welcome to the Strive for Great Health Podcast, a podcast where we empower you to take control of your health with lifestyle medicine and the health mindset to live with purpose and joy. And I have on the podcast with me, Matthew Zachary. He is the founder of off-script media and stupid cancer.
And we’re talking about cancer advocacy in this podcast and how Matthew has dedicated his life to helping others. He actually talks about his journey with cancer, it’s an incredible story. And then talks about what we can all do to help those who have cancer. as far as patient advocacy. It’s a great episode touches on a lot of great points about healthcare.
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Welcome to Strive for Great Health Podcast, I’m your host, Dr. Richard Harris. And today I have with me on the podcast. Matthew Zachary, Matthew, how are you doing today?
Matthew Zachary: [00:03:12] Great! Thank you so much for having me on.
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:03:15] Yeah, I really appreciate you coming on the show and talking about your story and you have such a unique story and unique background. We love stories here, that’s why all my guests always start off with the story. So how is it that you became focused on wellness?
Matthew Zachary: [00:03:33] Well, it’s always often like born of our condition, right? Like no one wakes up and says, I can’t wait to be a cancer advocate. I was kind of thrust into this against my will. As most people are with a with a brain cancer diagnosis when I was in college 25 years ago. So unbeknownst to me, but perhaps knownst to others, this would wind up turning itself into my career today, which is advocating on behalf of patients who are kind of screwed by the system. Trying to elicit some social change in the policy space to make healthcare suck less.
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:04:12] Yeah. And it’s a nightmare for people going through. You experienced it yourself that you don’t know who to talk to about this. Who’s going to help you with this. What’s going to be covered on your insurance plan. And then just the general course. And it’s hard for people to get really good information.
And then it’s like, okay, well let’s just focus on medicine. Okay, well, what else is there that I should be doing? What should I be, should I be exercising? what should I be doing about stress, sleep, all of these different things. And you know, our, our healthcare system is really designed to give people meds and it’s not really designed to take into account all the other things that are involved with.
Matthew Zachary: [00:04:52] Yeah, one of my colleagues is named John Gorman. You can Google him he used to work for, I think, CMS in the 1990s. He’s a amazing advocate a voice of what needs to change and he imparted upon me this wonderful quote, which is that the healthcare system isn’t broken, it’s acting and behaving exactly as designed, which was not to protect the interest of consumers, but to preserve the power and the influence of shareholders.
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:05:21] Yeah, there’s a really good book by Simon Sinek came out, I think 2019 called infinite game. And he talks about how, what’s his name, the economic guru who started talking about shareholder equity was all that really mattered. And then, I just can’t think of the name right now. It’s just escaped me, but how, all these companies now started to do that, how they looked at, okay. Let’s maximize shareholder value and shareholder equity and at the expense of everything else, like be a good corporation, take care of your employees. You know generally just don’t be a bad person. And we’ve seen that kind of in healthcare where it’s all about the metrics, the people aspect is completely gone, completely gone. You never talk about patient outcomes in meetings. You never talked about, Hey, this person had a really good outcome. This person is really happy with their care. This person had a good experience, felt good about themselves while they’re here. It was no, they stayed here for half a day longer than they should. You need to do something about this.
Matthew Zachary: [00:06:21] Yep. It’s very unfortunate that that is the way it is. I love how you described earlier, I think it was I can paraphrase. So when you enter the cancer store, for example they never want to shop there. There is no Travelocity to plan to be in the cancer store. Once you’re in the cancer store there’s no one really to greet you and say, Hey, just do this and think that, and I got your back, which puts you at the mercy of not knowing that there could be options and decisions.
And this oftentimes bias in what you’re told based on where you live, who you are, which skin color is what doctor you’re at, what cancer you have. And it’s up to advocates to change the policies, regulations. We can argue over what regulations matter and what size of government, but when it comes to health, if it’s not free, like in every other country that it should be, there should be some regulations protecting people before they enter that store.
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:07:14] Yeah, absolutely. You can go back to Milton Friedman. That was it. It just, it just, I knew it was going to come to me when I wasn’t thinking about it. But if you look at like Monsanto and Roundup. This is something that there was a data starting to come out, observational studies that this was linked to cancer. For a while and it took a long time before there was finally anything done at the policy level or society level. And now if you look at places like Katy, Texas, a place that’s not too far from where I live, they actually have the highest rate in the country of mantle cell lymphoma, which is a rare cancer. The reason they have that is because it used to be all farmland. And so all of that farmland had all the Monsanto sprayed on it for years and years and years. Now it’s in the drinking water, it’s everywhere. And so that’s why this place has developed a really high rate of cancer. So it’s not only that after they get cancer the problem is before people get cancer and why they’re getting cancer. And so we don’t have that consumer protection here.
Matthew Zachary: [00:08:16] Right. It’s easy to say prevent cancer, reducing your risk from cancer, but there’s only so much you can do when you’re breathing LA smog or someone dumps in your water supply that you have no control over.
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:08:27] Yeah, absolutely. Flint, Michigan, right? It’s it’s a travesty that in this day and age in this country, that most places don’t even have clean drinking water. You just can’t. I mean, I don’t go anywhere and get the tap water.
Matthew Zachary: [00:08:39] Well, you’re in Houston, you just experienced that for yourself.
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:08:43] Yeah, absolutely. With our water treatment plants failing and we’re on a boil water notice for a couple
Matthew Zachary: [00:08:49] I know, you got a small taste of what it’s like that it shouldn’t be this way in America anyway.
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:08:54] Absolutely. I completely agree with you. Now that this wasn’t on the outline, but I’m sure there’s some things that you’ve seen in your advocacy. What are some of the craziest things that you’ve seen helping cancer patients navigate through the whole system?
Matthew Zachary: [00:09:08] Well, one of the things I’m most proud of was that when I ran stupid cancer, kind of served as a bit of a circus underneath which many, many non-profits rallied through one sort of very unilateral bi-partisan messaging, but there was a time back in the 1960s when Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac government issued loans to students they had a clause in there I’m going to mess this up or paraphrase it.
But the clause was that if you somehow need to defer your loan for any reason, they’ll let you differ. They sometimes might forgive it if it’s not that much money because reasonable risks and government loans and whatnot. But the asterisk in that bill was that they’ll do that unless you have cancer.
So you think about how many people with student debt are probably under 40 years old if they’re carrying it that long. So this was a young adult cancer issue. Why did they not forgive or forbear student loan debts, government issued college debts because young adults just kind of died back then. That was the way it was.
And here we are, 50 years later and young adults don’t die anymore. I mean, with an asterisk, there’s always a bell curve, survivorship is way up. Massive shifts in ways we treat people age appropriately, long story short, it took three years. But there was this massive movement from the young adult cancer community to lobby congress, to add reforms into student loan debt, forgiveness that changed the way lending recognized who the lendee was. So in 2016, say what you want about the administration that was running the country back then, but they passed legislation that added cancer to student loan, debt forgiveness for college students and young adults with Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac loans. I’m the most proud of that because, Hey, it only took three years, which by in the dog years of policy is like, nothing, but that’s what advocacy does. It’s all about changing policy to protect the people. Because if we hadn’t done that collectively as a community, it never would’ve changed.
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:11:31] That’s amazing and think about the impact and how many lives that will be beneficial for. People don’t think about it, but there’s a lot of pressure on our students now because of these student loans, because of the debt and how expensive college is. You heard of that kid, wasn’t in California was playing around on Robin hood, went $70,000 in debt and committed because of just the thought of all that debt. I couldn’t imagine seeing, I owe that much money at 21 years old. You think you’re never going to get out of it. It crushes you mentally, physically, and spiritually. And we see that now with these student loans, and then you throw on something life-changing like, cancer. I’ll never forget when I found out my mom had cancer and unfortunately it was on Facebook and it
Matthew Zachary: [00:12:18] Of all the places to find out.
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:12:20] Right. It wasn’t directly. My sister posted a post saying, Hey, pray for my mom. She’s got cancer. I’m like, wait, what? And so I called my mom And I was like, you have cancer. And she’s like, yeah. And they didn’t want to tell me because I was in school. They didn’t want to tell me because of the pressure that they thought I was under in medical school. And it wasn’t even my cancer diagnosis, but I’ll never forget that and that’s how much that diagnosis can change your life. And so something that you did there as an advocate, it’s going to help countless amounts of people be able to recover because as we know, if you’re stressed out your cancer treatments, not going to go like it should go.
Matthew Zachary: [00:13:00] Right, which goes back to the entirety of what the, I mean, if we’re focusing on oncology, the cancer advocacy movement over the last 30, 40, 50 years has always tried to advance policy that would protect people from having, I would say the least worst experience that they could have. And if it did eliminate variables, like giving them ways to cope with stress, anxiety, financial concerns getting to, and from care, managing your kids, preserving your fertility. Live strong used to call it the practical issues of a cancer diagnosis not the medical issues of a cancer diagnosis. And from that perspective, that’s consumer protection. The role of any good advocacy initiative is to make sure it sucks less by protecting you.
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:13:58] Then you just hit on a really key point. A lot of people don’t think about the other stuff that changes in their life because of the diagnosis and it’s easier if it’s prepared for, if someone is helping you, someone who’s been there, someone who knows, Hey, you’re going to go through this and you’re like, that’s something I didn’t even think about. How do I prepare for that? And you’re like, okay, here’s what you do. Here’s how you think about that. And I think that’s so key with something that is so world altering and we always say on this podcast that once you have a life-threatening disease, everything stops.
And the focal point and the priority is your health. Well, how many moving parts do we have in our life every single day? And now some of those get dropped by the wayside. They get down-regulated, they’re not as important, but those activities may be important to somebody else or somebody else may be counting on us for those activities. and then what do you do in that situation?
Matthew Zachary: [00:14:53] Well it’s like butterfly effect. If you want to ascribe to that type of dogma, here’s your life. It’s a frail enough ecosystem as it is on a good day. We would often say that it’s hard enough just graduating from college and trying to find a job and dating people when you’re well. It actually goes back to a larger conversation when we started Stupid Cancer, because the words young adult cancer had never been spoken in pedagogy, in oncology, in consumption before.
And the feedback we got quite often was, well, why is young adult cancer yada. Well, it’s not better or worse than pediatrics and adult and geriatric oncology. It’s just different and here’s why, and then they understood. You don’t worry about fertility, you don’t worry about going back to school.
You don’t worry about losing your job. You’re retired in a beach house somewhere and living on Medicare benefits and there’s nothing wrong with that, but here’s why it’s different. So the practical aspects of it interrupting your life when you should be taking 10 steps forward every day in your peak years, post college. That’s what people finally started to understand, which I would say maybe from a ripple effect, help reinforce the idea of cancer survivorship, which is living ideally through and hopefully beyond it with the dignity and quality of life that you deserve.
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:16:20] Absolutely. And it’s gotten to the point now where everyone I know who is in their thirties, late thirties, middle thirties has had a friend affected by cancer in their twenties or thirties. I had several actually who underwent cancer treatment. I remember one of them and I’m not sure if he listens to the podcast or not. We’re sitting at a a party and he goes, Hey, Richard, I think I need you to take a look at my testicle. And I go, what? And he goes,
Matthew Zachary: [00:16:49] Best party trick ever.
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:16:52] I was like what? I was like five drinks in at that point in time. I thought he was just messing with me. And he goes, no, I think there’s something there. And I said, I can look at it, but you need to go see a doctor, like. ASAP, if you think something was wrong and he actually had testicular cancer. And because of the work that people like you are doing, he was able to still have a family. He’s got children now and that’s amazing.
Matthew Zachary: [00:17:16] It’s amazing. Love happy success stories. Stories.
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:17:20] Exactly. And this is something that wasn’t happening before.
Matthew Zachary: [00:17:24] Well, my fertility story, which I’ve written about a million times, but the gist was that I was treated as a pediatric cancer patient in the 1990s, even though I was 21. My cancer was biologically pediatric and as a benefit of being locked in with other single digit kids, they actually did fertility preservation because of the children’s oncology groups protocols from the 1980s. So I benefited from advocacy 10 years prior to my own diagnosis. The thing was that it was all out of pocket. So it wasn’t weird enough that my mom drove me to the sperm bank.
Not awkward, of course, but I had to pay $3,000 a year. To keep them frozen between 1996 and 2009, when my wife and I decided to try. And then it turns out that we found technology had advanced so much because of advocacy that we didn’t need that frozens sperm and we were able to conceive through all sorts of robotic magic stuff that happened at the IVS clinic. I don’t know what the magic recipe they did we have twins from that.
But now I have the benefit of raising two kids and spending a Grillion dollars to rear them into the market and hopefully get them through college. But the idea that I had to pay out of pocket, like 30 grand plus, just to hope that I could be a dad was a, I guess, a good problem to have, but at the same time, we shouldn’t have, had to pay. Because cancer took away potentially my ability to be a biological dad. So kudos to your friend and their care team for having the capacity to do that for him and his wonderful new family.
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:19:09] Yeah, absolutely. And it’s sad because this raises another topic of insurance coverage. And something like that to a young person, the idea of them not being able to have a family, them not being able to conceive that is going to so adversely impact their mental and physical health. Huge, huge. And So if you’re in the game of health, this is something that is important to that person’s health having a family. No, I don’t have any kids yet, but everyone who does have kids tells me it’s the best and worst thing that’s ever happened to them.
Matthew Zachary: [00:19:44] I concur.
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:19:47] So if it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to you, that’s going to impact your health. And I wholeheartedly believe that things like that if something happens to you, that’s outside of your normal control, where the treatment regimen is going to make you infertile, then insurance companies should pay for it. Your ability to have kids later because the treatment did that to you and the treatment is preventing you from doing something in the future. And so I think that should be covered.
Matthew Zachary: [00:20:19] Channeling your inner medical background. You’re probably familiar with the term iatrogenics. So for the listener or the lay person, that kind of means that things happen to you because things happen to you. So there’s two kinds of infertility. There’s the kind you’re born with way more common to not be able to naturally conceive because of whatever, but then there’s induced infertility from things like diabetes or car accidents or cancer treatment for that matter.
So if we’re specifically talking about employment and cancer, most people affected by fertility issues are employed they’re not retired. They’re not on Medicare part d and in whatever place they’re bound by the I would say the iTunes service agreement of their employer benefits package that they get when they sign on as an employee. And the last thing on any 26 year olds mind is I wonder if this covers infertility when I get cancer. So one of the other initiatives, not part of my wing, they call it onco-fertility advocacy is to guarantee cause these are states based levels for employers. It’s not a federal mandate. That there are these extraordinary women and it’s all women angry moms who wished they were moms, they might be moms now because they’d been fighting for this, that go state to state like a good kind of virus and get the legislators in those states to mandate that whether the employer has, cancer based in fertility benefits versus regular infertility benefits as a benefit, they’re going to cover cancer infertility by default.
And there are, I think 13, it’s like the new DOMA it’s like over DOMA. If you work for this company in this state where they flip this one policy at the state legislator, then you have the right to be reimbursed or covered for fertility preservation as an employee of said company. That’s another great example of how advocacy matters.
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:22:43] Absolutely because that’s impacting generations and one thing that’s a problem that’s not talked about is our fertility rates in the gutter in this country, it’s at an all time low. And a lot of this is for things we’ve talked about on the podcast, our nutrition, our stress toxins, all of that.
Matthew Zachary: [00:23:01] Number one cause of infertility uncomfortable fact to inconvenient truth, I suppose, would be how that should be delivered.
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:23:10] Sure. And 40% of the countries obese 50% by 2030, in 10 years, 10%. That’s 30 million people between 20. and 20, 30, 30 million more people are going to become obese. That’s a staggering amount of people and a staggering number that 50% of the country is going to have a condition that predisposes you to 13 different types of cancers, diabetes, heart disease, alzheimer’s parkinson’s I mean, just name it, it’s pretty much a predisposing condition.
Matthew Zachary: [00:23:43] Yep. This episode brought to you by donuts,
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:23:47] Keto
Matthew Zachary: [00:23:47] Keto
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:23:48] one of my favorite things. Yeah. If you look at my bio, you’ll see that, that my favorite thing is Keto donuts. My wife makes these and they are so good that I’ll eat like eight of them.
Matthew Zachary: [00:23:59] That’s man
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:24:02] Yeah. I’ll share the recipe with you
Matthew Zachary: [00:24:04] I like the crackers that are just like baked cheese. Those are good. Very salty, but worth it.
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:24:11] Those are good. Yeah. We’ve made those before. They’re pretty simple too, just like almond flour and some cheese and salt and you bake it and that’s pretty much about it.
Matthew Zachary: [00:24:19] Or just take some parmesan cheese make a pile of it, throw it in the oven and boom, it becomes a little cracker.
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:24:25] Yeah, that too. Yeah, I love parmesan cheese. I’m a cheese guy. I’m a dairy guy, I like dairy.
Matthew Zachary: [00:24:29] I don’t think I can give up dairy, but dairy is good on keto. So there you go.
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:24:33] Exactly. So one of the things that we had talked about beforehand, which I think is a really interesting point and something that needs to be brought to is people always say, well, we have all these other things. You can snake a heart valve up somebody’s artery through their leg and plant it in the heart. We can do heart transplants, we can do organ transplants. They’re doing stem cell therapy and gene therapy. Well, how come we don’t have a cure for cancer, but you have, said before a cure really isn’t enough. And why is that?
Matthew Zachary: [00:25:07] Well, I think the word itself has just become symbolic of MacGuffin. It’s in the eye of the beholder because we talked about how the last day of chemo is always the scariest and what now and there’s a great quote that like cancer may have left my body, but it never left my life, so I don’t quite feel cured. I feel new or different. And I’m also a big fan of choosing your own metaphor and how you want to reconcile what just happened to you. But I look at the word cure, like smallpox eradication is how I define cure. You can’t eradicate cancer. If you want to get super biology, geeky, because it’s a naturally occurring evolutionary process.
It just happened in your body all day, every day, and your body takes care of it. And then somehow, if we want to jump into epigenetics and telomeres and how nerdy your audience might want to be you’re determinant of your DNA. You die a different person than you’re born your DNA. gets torn apart and rambled around. This is more than just shedding your skin every seven years. And what happens to you whether it’s crap in the water or working out every day, or your dad had this weird thing or are going to scramble your DNA with a trillion cells in your body or more there’s bound to be some bugs. The idea that your body might not be able to manage the cancer is why you get more cancer, there’s always cancer in your body. It just happens. I’m ranting because like, we need you to define what our goal is. I think if you look at like HIV, for example, great analogy was an absolute death sentence, different disease, obviously completely different disease, but they managed to make it something that you can live with.
And they’re kind of on the cusp of making sure that you it lives in dormancy because there’s a virus it’s like, I think lysis and lysogeny go way back to AP bio. Hey, you got a virus to just shut up and go to sleep. Malaria, they just discovered an mRNA and big thanks to the COVID vaccine treatments. They now have mRNA trials in malaria. we can eliminate and eradicate malaria with vaccines. We can eliminate the chance of getting certain cancers with vaccines, if they are, HPV driven, like anal, oral ,cervical. So that could be cure, but if you never get it, then boom, it’s gone. I think with regard to how barbaric things are happening these days from the 30 years in the future, me looking back, we’ll probably have something where like, Oop, you’re fine star Trek in a couple of years, but. I think for now, we don’t have a cure because it just costs money to do that. And you can come back to just Chris Rock ain’t no money in the cure. I don’t do him very well, but that’s the whole point. It’s like they get live with it and that’s kind of, you want to buy into that? Fine. That’s fine though. No one’s hiding a pill in a safe, just think that there’s a pill in a safe.
CEO’s of pharma companies, kids get leukemia all the time. So I think it’s in the eye of the beholder, how you want to define it because they still use that word. I think it’s exploited for the, I call them lovingly call them like the dying pets commercials, where everyone’s bald. And if you don’t give them money, everyone’s dying tomorrow. I think it’s also really important to level set with people if channeling any one’s inner statistician, cancers, rare. look at 8 billion people on this planet and there’s 35 million cases a year. Not saying it’s good, it’s terrible that it exists, but do the math it’s infinitesimally improbable to happen to you at that? There are 1.6 million diagnosis in this country every year and less than 80,000 are under 45 years. So that’s five and a half percent of all cancer, s I feel like when I bought a Subaru, I only saw Subaru’s is on the highway. So your doctor in the cancer space and all your friends have cancer. It’s very rare, but there’s risk. And we just have to collectively not look at it as the boogeyman anymore. And if I could tie that to another question, I know you’re going to ask me, it’s like, what can we do to try and not get cancer outside of like brain and blood.
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:29:46] Yeah, it is a great question. And there’s evidence two years ago, three years ago, something like that. A study came out, showed that 40% of cancers are preventable. 45% of cancer deaths are preventable. And that’s mainly because of smoking our nutrition, our lifestyles being sedentary. And it is a relatively rare phenomenon, but you know, working in healthcare, it’s something I see all of and like you, if you have Ford, you’re going to see more forwards on the road cause you pay them. There’s, there’s a name for that bias. I forget the, the name there’s so many of these cognitive biases that they all have different names. I forget there’s a name for that though. When you see something maybe that maybe it’s the recency bias. That you’re more likely to pay attention to it and see it more so than you over estiamte the rate at which that happens, which is like they did a study after nine 11, where people thought that they were more likely to die from a terrorist attack than from heart disease, even though heart disease is the number one cause of death and dying in the US from a terrorist attack is an extremely rare phenomenon.
Matthew Zachary: [00:30:51] Yep. Exactly.
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:30:52] So, yes we have to do what we can to, to prevent cancer. And then we have to have a holistic treatment plan. What If it does, unfortunately happen to us? And I think that you hit on it It’s such a key point with the conspiracy theories. I’m like, look, if we could cure cancer, if Pfizer could come out with a pill tomorrow that says, Hey, take this once a day and you will never get cancer. They would be worth a hundred trillion dollars in a year.
Matthew Zachary: [00:31:15] I love the idea of that. And it might be star Trek one day. But you know, cancer’s an emotional word for most people. And if you’re not a wank like us living in our bubbles, it’s hard to be analytical and intellectual about it. No one cares that only 5% of cancers are under 45%, if it’s you, you know what, 5% of the time it works out a hundred percent of the time. It’s not about asking you to acknowledge that as status. But also cancer’s like 200 different types of diseases and under each one or all these now genomic factors, which are a good problem to have that. I remember one year the FDA passed maybe eight new drugs, And the next year there was 72 new drugs cause of genomics, which kind of goes back to it’s positive.
It’s easier than ever today to not get a try to not get cancer because of diagnostics. The challenge with the diagnostics is you don’t know they’re there. Your doctor might know that they’re, they may not be fully vetted through a phase three. You can’t afford them. They’re not at your clinic, but the idea that you could get, I don’t know some kind of like an endoscopic biopsy that detects pre esophageal cancer, which is a thing that exists today.
Wouldn’t you want to take that test to know you’re predisposed to esophageal and take the nodes out. That’s there’s another like Cola Guard. Think of how much Cola Guard had to go through to get to market. Would have been nice 10 years ago when they were just studying this. How easy it would have been to just say, oh, you could probably not get colon cancer by doing this thing and it took way too many years to get to that point, how many people had to die because of the bureaucracy in getting that thing to market. So, which is jargony market access. We can do a whole nother show on market access, but I just think we’re at a precipice now where the ability to try and not get it is at an all time high.
And we’re not here to tell you to stop going to McDonald’s and eating barbecue with your GERD and whatnot. But if there’s a diagnostic that can give you a little warning, maybe that’s what you need to change your lifestyle instead of a conscious awakening just one day that you need to do it.
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:33:37] Yeah, absolutely. And it’s coming with that, why because there was actually a recent study that came out that showed that well, there’s lots of studies that show, unfortunately people diagnosed with pre-diabetes said they were happy that they were aware and didn’t change their behavior whatsoever afterwards.
And then you have to get back down to the why. Now, maybe pre-diabetes or being diabetic, doesn’t scare people as much as cancer. Because diabetes can do some really gnarly, really bad stuff to you, you know? It may not be as visceral and emotional as a word as cancer. Cancer is such an emotional word so I think that people are more likely to, I hope change their behaviors when they hear something like, Hey, you’re at risk for cancer because it stirs up such a profound response. That would be like saying, Hey, if you leave your house tomorrow, I know for sure you’re going to hit by a bus. I would say, well, first, how do, you know that? And then I’ll be like, how sure of. you are this? if you say you’re a hundred percent sure I’m not leaving my house.
Matthew Zachary: [00:34:36] That’s prevention. Don’t go outside.
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:34:38] But yeah, cancer is not a homogeneous disease. Even if you have breast cancer, the breast cancer, that you have maybe different than the breast cancer somebody else has, and we’re still scratching the surface on all these genetic markers and differences and, and different treatment patterns, and really getting to that point where one day You will have a completely individualized treatment regimen where we just basically sequenced the entire genome of your cancer and be like, oh, yours is type 1, 3, 7, 5, 4. This is exactly what you need for that. Right. Versus, you know, someone else having to have type three and then they get something.
Matthew Zachary: [00:35:14] Yeah. Like bespoke individualized, like here’s your pill. Goodbye. That’s it? We do a lot of work in the in communities of color and the disparities with. You get to 30 year old women who live across the street from each other in the same area, they both get triple negative breast cancer. They both get the same treatment. They both have the same doctors. One dies, one, doesn’t why. So it isn’t a one size fits all. And I just go back to, where I think we’re 18 years after the human genome was finally sequenced and we now have the capacity to test at that molecular level per person, it’s just really expensive and hard to commercialize and market gaps to get doctors to adapt it.
And you know, we’re recording this show as the planet gets vaccinated from COVID-19 and their’shesitancy. So do people really want their whole body to be sequenced? And unlike some of those companies that sold it and patented their DNA, you can’t do that. We need regulations to make sure that you are protected, that someone can’t harness, your the Henrietta Lacks of all those years ago could still happen. It’s still in the minds of people that it’s really, there’s a fear and it’s a rational fear.
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:36:31] Yeah, absolutely. I mean, our information gets sold left and right. One of the things I agree with Andrew Yang on is that we should get paid for that. If Google is selling my information, I should get a cut for that. I got nothing to hide so I don’t really care, but it would be nice if they did, if they were doing it, people were selling my information, you know what I like and all that kind of stuff that I get money from that because it is my data. It’s a database upon my daily activity.
Matthew Zachary: [00:36:58] Well, I just watched the great hack documentary about Cambridge Analytica And while it wasn’t healthcare related specifically, the idea that data rights are human rights makes a lot of sense to me. And yeah, if you’re not disclosing how you’re using my data, because the terms of service I signed by clicking this thing is 1180 pages long written by a thousand lawyers. How am I protected in any sense? And then you update your terms of agreements with a one-click button say, do you accept? And don’t give us a link, to who reads that. So this is, of humanity at this point, without sounding too maybe too big about it, but the notion that someone can own you as data is terrifying, but at the same time, we may need and depend on that process to survive. So we’re looking at almost like this, this event horizon, dogmatic humanity and rights and liberty is against the free market and where we evolve as a species in society. Sorry, my head just floated. exploded.
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:38:13] A very complicated subject and it goes into what people are afraid of. Are we going to do discrimination based upon genetics? I mean, humans have discriminated against each other for a much more trivial things, right? And so this is something that could happen in the future and people are legitimately worried about. Now one of the things I do want to ask, and of course it’s not something that we had talked about before is just something I thought of during the show in your field, in the field of advocacy, I always like to give people actionable tips. And so if you have someone in your circle, who’s going through cancer, what are some of the things that you can do to support them? Because a lot of times people, we just freeze when we were faced with something horrible. And we’re faced with a mortality event, possibly we don’t know what to do. And so we, because we don’t know what to do, we do nothing instead of. Trying or making an effort or showing someone that we care So what are some things that we can do if, if we are close to someone And they tell us I’ve got cancer, how can we support you,
Matthew Zachary: [00:39:21] Yeah, that is not a simple answer in any way. Yeah. I was diagnosed in the nineties and there was nothing and today there’s too much. So we never really crossed the just enough barrier because of the internet and not everyone is born with chutzpah and Moxy to just be. I love when they say, oh, just be here and advocate, know your body. Not everyone has that congenital sort of precociousness inside them to demand and question. Blah, blah, blah. Especially if they’re of certain cultures where that’s not the norm to do that, listen to the doctors, certain generations just say, It’s what the doctor said. Everyone’s a bit of a snowflake in the sense that there is no one size fits all.
And I know the non-profits say, well, we’re here for you, but how do you know they’re there? How do you even think to know, it goes back to there’s no Travelocity for the cancer store. You don’t know that there is a disability rights lawyer service that is free, that you can talk to, to get you to Sue your employer because they didn’t cover this or you wrongfully terminated. You don’t know that there’s a online support group on Facebook because Facebook sucks but this is the good group. You don’t know that there’s a cancer and careers nonprofit that’s been around for 40 years that can tell you how to talk about gaps in your resume. Fertility service, you don’t know these things cause you don’t think about them their like the unknown unknowns, I think I don’t want to depress your listeners by telling you there’s nothing they can do, but to the extent that google can be an asset, when you use the right way, searching for things can be irrelevant. I do recommend if I’m allowed to make a recommendation here on the show, themighty.com is a fabulous, I think three or 4 million people use it. It’s largely a mental health, safer non hackable community besides Facebook. It’s not a facebook at all, but they tackle every single human condition from depression, anxiety to cancer, diabetes type one, scleroderma, multiple sclerosis narcolepsy.
There are communities on there driven by and for themselves and the guy that founded it, Mike Porath is a friend of mine and I highly recommend the model. It’s an app, it’s a website, you find a tribe on there. I’ll just be an advocate, find a tribe. It’s not that easy, but the recommendations are finding, it’s been proven quantifiably their evidence-based research over and over again, that peer to peer psychology improves your mental health. It started with AA all those years ago, and now it’s every single group has a tribe to find. And I think that self-policing it has become thankfully a new norm because we learned our lessons from Facebook. But the single top thing, I would encourage people to just put in the back of their heads for themselves, for their loved ones is find your peers that you trust, where you don’t feel judged, where you don’t feel like there’s stigma and it’s sadly the club you didn’t want to join, but you’re there and they treat you like that.
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:42:38] Awesome. Well, thank you for that recommendation now. What are you up to these days cause it seems like you got yourself into a million different things. I think you have your own podcast as well. So if people you don’t want to support what you’re up to the advocacy, if they want to check out your material, where do they go to find all things, Matthews Zachary?
Matthew Zachary: [00:42:59] I’m probably way too google-able but if you just type in Matthew Zachary to any browser, I’m thinking of the first 13 pages, but I am back behind a mic and I say back behind them cause I did host the first healthcare podcast ever starting in 2007 called the stupid cancer show back when it was radio before the word podcast was a podcast and I exited my role at stupid cancer in 2019 but I wanted to get behind the mic again without just creating another podcast. And my show is called out of patience it’s spelled exactly as you think it should be spelled. Every Tuesday I do a one-on-one interview every Thursday is a weekly recap in vaccines and healthcare called vacs on, and I run a podcast network. Now and we’re building the largest listenership base for health citizenry in the country through multiple shows and multiple talents and lots of guests with a policy angle to drive policy change through the listenership. And that company is called off scrip with no t off scrip.
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:44:13] That’s awesome. Yeah, cause I always say that all the things I say, all the health advocacy, I do all the holistic wellness that I do. It really doesn’t mean anything until the consumer dollars speak. And then the advocacy groups start speaking. and then once we start doing that, then we can see real change. It’s starting to happen at the grassroots level. And there are groups coming together to demand health because I believe health is a basic human right. But the way that we go about it in this country, the sick care system, it’s not. It’s, yeah we’ll throw some meds at you when you get sick and best of luck, even though the data and efficacy on meds is pretty poor. You know, they work at the macro population level. They probably aren’t going to work for you, which is why the average person’s on 16 meds at 65. If they worked, why would you need 16 of them?
Matthew Zachary: [00:45:04] Well, yeah and the Big Mac is 99 cents and salad is $10 and a doughnut is 10 cents and a Keto donut, just $10. So there’s not a lot of incentive from the agribusiness universe to encourage healthier eating, especially in low income communities. And that’s a whole, that’s a rabbit hole for an entire other show. So it’s really it’s a very difficult rabbit hole to get us out off.
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:45:31] Extremely. And we dug ourselves into this mess. it took about a century to dig us into this mess. It’s going to take some time for us to get out, but I think there’s enough people. Well, we have to get it sounds doom and gloom, but our society will collapse under health issues if we don’t, because it’s going to become insanely expensive as far as direct costs and indirect costs, people missing work. The biggest problem for our military right now is they cannot find eligible people to join the military.
Matthew Zachary: [00:45:58] Right, because we’re all like out of shape and sedentary.
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:46:03] That’s a huge problem. Huge problem. If you can’t find enough people to help defend your country police systems as well, I’ve got a buddy who works for the police. He says that’s a huge issue. We can’t find officers who are in good physical condition.
Matthew Zachary: [00:46:18] It’s becoming a smaller fraction of our population every single year.
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:46:24] And it has to change otherwise our society will end as we don’t look at what happened with COVID. COVID, is the pandemic is really a cardio-metabolic phenomenon.
A study showed 63% of hospitalizations could be prevented if we had better cardio-metabolic health and as the production of that study, 2.2 of the 2.5 million deaths had happened in places with high obesity rates. Most of that, like 90% of these deaths were in places with high obesity rates. And so you’re starting to see a direct correlation of our everyday health and what that links to, as far as these abnormal events, same thing with cancer. I’ve heard people say, well, I was healthy and I got cancer. I’m like, yeah but you’re still with us right now because you were healthy and you got
Matthew Zachary: [00:47:12] Right.
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:47:13] Could you imagine what would happen if you got cancer and you weren’t healthy and they would kind of blink and look at me and say, you know what? I never thought about it like that before.
Matthew Zachary: [00:47:22] You had predisposed yourself to something you never expected to get. And it worked out that way by accident.
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:47:30] Exactly. Well Matthew, this has been awesome. Thank you so much for coming on the show. Is there anything you want to say before we close out?
Matthew Zachary: [00:47:37] I guess I like to close out with so if you visited my website, there’s a quote on there which says that. I don’t overuse the word revolution, cause it just triggers Bernie Sanders the revolution. But I feel like the revolution is a consumer revolution and change will only happen when consumers determine what happens to them and not the system. And I’d like to think we’re slowly moving in that direction. And the next 10 years will really reveal who we are as a species. If consumers and citizens vote with not their wallets, but they vote with their agrievances against what’s wrong with the, I love you said sick care with the sick care system.
Dr. Richard Harris: [00:48:30] Absolutely. Well, thank you so much for that to all the listeners. I hope you’ve taken some value from this, realize that you always have the power, always have the control and your mindsets determines so much of what happens to you going forward.