Julie Greenbaum. Fuck Cancer: Two words that changed the way a new generation thinks about this scourge. Listen to Julie Greenbaum the Co-Founder talk about Fuck Cancer, a mass movement dedicated to the prevention, early detection and communication of cancer. Her and her co-founder Yael Cohen Braun have created extraordinary momentum behind this movement find out how it all began. For more ideas on Uprising and movements, cultural movements and movement marketing, follow Uprising!!! on Facebook. We’ll continue to publish brand-new columns on a regular basis. Hey, do us a favor and please give Uprising!!! a review on iTunes. Scott Goodson is the author of best-selling book ‘Uprising: how to build a brand and change the world by sparking cultural movements,’ available on Amazon.com. Scott has helped create and build some of the world’s most iconic brands. He is founder of StrawberryFrog the world’s first movement marketing agency.
Uprising Interview transcript
Julie: I was 19 years old when my mother passed away from ovarian cancer. At the time I kind for just wanted to do something to give back. It was definitely difficult time for myself and my family, we were dealing a lot. I just decided to throw an event and kind of start this organization, and fuck cancer was also something my mother said quite a bit during her experience with cancer.
Welcome to Uprising. Each episode looks into what it takes to lead the most dynamic and successful cultural movements; some of them in the business world, some in the social realm, some in politics, and some in-between, to see why people start uprisings. What gives that initial momentum, what keeps them going and most important, what lessons you can learn from these movements, and how to apply them to your business, and even personal life? Let’s explore the secret to sparking movements that move people into action.
Passionate ideas, controversial ideas, uprising ideas, the power is now in the hands of you to start a cultural movement, your movement, to move the world.
Scott: Hi I’m Scott Goodson and thanks for joining us on the uprising podcast. In each episode we welcome the extraordinary idealists who are creating, leading, crystallizing and making movements that are changing and shaping the world. Today we’re going to discuss one of the most emotionally draining and in some ways most uplifting movement for those involved families who stand up to cancer. This has been one of the most complex and charged movements in te United States and perhaps around the world, since president Nixon declared war on cancer in 1971. I myself lost my own father to the side effects of cancer, and that was the worst experience of my life. I’ve certainly felt like I wanted to fuck cancer, and that’s why I really wanted to interview Julie Greenbaum, the person and the co-founder behind Fuck Cancer. Thanks for joining uprising.
Julie: Thanks for having me.
Scott: It’s a pleasure. So can we start by having you tell us why you started the Fuck Cancer movement?
Julie: I was 19 years old when my mother passed away from ovarian cancer. At the time I kind for just wanted to do something to give back. It was definitely difficult time for myself and my family, we were dealing a lot. I just decided to throw an event and kind of start this organization, and fuck cancer was also something my mother said quite a bit during her experience with cancer. So it was definitely something that resonated with me and my family.
Scott: Can you just talk to me about the first day that you started this movement, like what actually happened, how did it start and where did it go from there?
Julie: Yeah it started very naturally, like I said I wanted to throw an event to raise money. I did that about 10 months after my mother passed away, and we had an amazing turnout. The next year the event tripled in size, after that I kind of realized we had something special. It was an event that really reached out to the younger generation. It really gave the platform to get involved and then just started throwing events from there. Across Canada, we broke into the US, and eventually I ended up linking up with my co-founder, who was also running her own Fuck Cancer charity that was based out of Vancouver. It was really cool because mine was focused mainly on the main event sand grassroots fundraising, and hers was all digital, early prevention, detection psycho social support that was all online, and then we ended up merging about 2 years ago to create a stronger F-Cancer.
Scott: Wow, there’s something really visceral and stark about the word fuck. I mean obviously there are a lot of movements around cancer, but this one just seems to cut through. Do you think that’s why it’s been so successful for you?
Julie: Yeah I think that it’s something that most people have experienced the disease it’s a word and a saying that embodies an aggression that most people connect to and feel when they experience cancer or have a loved one who experiences cancer. I always say it’s an aggressive attack on an aggressive disease.
Scott: It feels like also an outlet.
Julie: Yeah I think it’s an outlet. I think like I said it embodies an emotion that so many people resonate with who’ve been affected, so I definitely think it’s an important outlet. It allows people to express their true feeling for the disease.
Scott: I think it’s really fascinating. Have you received a lot of push back because it is provocative?
Julie: To be honest not as much as people think. We get that question quite a bit, and there’s always one or two people in a bunch that are maybe a little bit against the tone or the aggressiveness about it, but most people we’ve dealt with about it not only feel a connection to it, but it’s really one of the things that draws them in, so they really do love the abrasiveness of it. It’s just something that so many people connect to.
Scott: So you had this first event, people connected with you, you were able to crystallize this feeling people had and then you had a second event a year later and then it just took off from there and it’s been a huge success?
Julie: Yeah it took ff from there. I was running it for a few years on my own and then got to this point where I ended up merging with another F-Cancer with (Yale Cohen Bronn). So when I was doing event those started growing quite quickly, and (Yale’s) charity started growing, and we ended up merging sand kind of joining forces. But before the merge it was kind of just something that just grew naturally for both of us. We were able to get some really great traction. Every year we were getting more and more support, and becoming more and more well known so it really was an organic growth.
Scott: What has Fuck Cancer achieved so far to date?
Julie: Well since the merge, because before we merged I was raising money for cancer research, and (Yale) was focused on prevention and early detection, and education, so since we merged we’re now focused on prevention, early detection, and psycho-social support. We’ve been really successful building some awesome campaigns and initiatives focusing on prevention. We launched a major HPV vaccination campaign that’s been running for about a year now, that focuses on providing education on HPV, making sure people are getting vaccinate and screened, but we’ve also really been able to give a voice to our generation, and we’ve allowed the younger generation to get involved and fight back against cancer in a very unique way.
Scott: That’s amazing. Its definitely one of those movements that have been around awhile and the fact that you’re able to reconnect it with a new generation I think is really remarkable. What do you think is the most important thing that you’ve done to make Fuck Cancer a success? Obviously you’ve talked about the merger, but is there something else you think really took you to this sort of level that is national and well-known and respected?
Julie: There are a lot of things that I think were key significant factors in getting to this point. But defiantly one of the things that stand out to me is our online community. We’ve got a really strong social community, and it’s almost become a platform for people to become connected to people who have been affected t give support and receive support. A platform where people can talk about their experiences and not only provide an awesome area for people to feel connected to one another, but also to let us as a charity what some of the biggest topics are and what the biggest concerns are in the cancer space. And with that connection we’ve been able to stay at the forefront of a lot of those issues.
Scott: Do you feel that it’s been a challenge to create a movement, or has it just been on auto-pilot?
Julie: No it’s been challenging, there’s a lot of things that happen when you’re taking it for a grassroots movement into really making it into a legitimate organization and charity. One of the major things we struggled with was really the greatest problem and issue you can have is trying to manage the demand coming in. We’re such a small team, and sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the amount coming in for events, for programs, or for initiatives, and not feeling like we can fulfill it at the rate that it’s coming in. So that’s overwhelming at times, but that’s the problem you can have because that means there’s a real need for the organization and what we’re doing.
Scott: Can you tell us about maybe a personal story where you went up against a big challenge and you were able to surpass it? What are some of the things you went through as this movement was growing?
Julie: That’s a good question. I’m trying to think of something. This is interesting, this was before I merged, I think it was about 2 years into running half of the F-Cancer, which were predominantly focused on events. I felt like I was getting in a trap of actually having people reach out and saying they wanted to get involved and help, and then I would meet with them and it became very clear that they were actually trying to take over, kind of. I was a young kid, I was 19, so I would meet people that were fairly older than me, and I would notice that they were almost trying to, I don’t want to say steal it, because that’s kind of an aggressive word, but they were trying to take over and get involved in a way that I was uncomfortable with. Being a kid at the time I definitely struggled with having to put my foot down or pull out when I felt that certain things were getting too intense with certain people that were to help.
Scott: You said, I just picked up on something you said, that maybe steal it sounds too aggressive, but you helped give birth to this idea Fuck Cancer and there’s a certain aggressiveness to it, and I wonder if that’s not the recipe to your success, the fact that you are a little aggressive and need to break through that wall of success. We’re living in a time of massive noise, where people are stimulated perpetually. So we really need something to cut through and jar people, so maybe the aggressiveness isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Julie: Yeah I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I think you definitely need a certain amount of aggression and determination to break through and to get to where you want to be, so yeah I think I have a little bit if that. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, but you definitely have to manage it ad make sure it doesn’t get too out of control.
Scott: What was the, I mean obviously it was a traumatic experience when your mother passed away, but can you talk about how that may have been an energy source for you to create this massive thing that you’ve created.
Julie: That was the spark and catalyst that pushed me to do the first event and then continue it from there. Its definitely the one thing that everyday I wake up and it drives me and pushes me to want to continue growing it, and to make a difference in the cancer space. I selfishly like to think that in keeping her legacy alive, and just knowing that it means a lot to me and that it means a lot to my family, and I think about her every single day, it definitely pushes me to want to be the best that I can be.
Scott: Do you remember why she would say Fuck Cancer, I mean obviously she was affected with it, and I would probably say it as well, but was there something deeper that she felt that she wanted to communicate with that?
Julie: You know I don’t think so, I think it was really her expressing her feelings and hr emotions behind it. There’s no one particular story, but she said it several times throughout her battle. I just think it really embodied what she was feeling at that time.
Scott: You know there’s millions of people who have been through or are facing similar challenges as your mother went through, and I think it’s amazing that you can put two words together and it crystallizes how, have you thought about it? I mean millions and millions of people have felt and all of a sudden you put these words together and it’s like a lightening rod. It brings and connects and unifies all these emotions, all these feeling by all these individuals basically on a global basis, it’s really fascinating. Have you experienced first hand, have you any specific stories where you met someone who has heard about this movement and they just have immediately warmed to you and have responded to these words?
Julie: Yeah I mean all the time that’s such a rewarding part of the job, meeting people who have heard of the charity or who have been involved with the charity and just listening to everyone’s stories, even just wearing the T-shirt outside sometimes. I’d be wearing a T-shirt and it just ignites such a reaction from so many people and a lot of the time you’ll have people run up to you and give you a hug. A lot of times they had a parent with cancer and like you said it kind of just unifies everyone and bring everyone together and there’s nothing more powerful and comforting than feeling like you’re not alone and we’ve all been affected and we all just want to come together and make a difference spreading that energy everyday is something I’m really proud of.
Scott: This is Scott Goodson and this is the Uprising podcast. Today we are speaking with Julie Greenbaum, the person and co-founder behind Fuck Cancer. Julie, if you meet somebody today who has cancer, what would you tell them?
Julie: you know I don’t think it’s my place to tell them anything. I think everyone’s experience is different. Everyone’s journey with the disease is different and I don’t like kind of inflicting or pushing my thoughts onto someone else’s experience, but I would tell them to be open, and to lean on whoever you need to lean on and let people in and kind of embrace as much as you can. Embrace the experience and see where it takes you in your life.
Scott: What was the most challenging meeting you’ve ever had as you’ve been a part of this movement?
Julie: there has been a lot for different reasons. I don’t know if here’s one specifically, but there’s definitely been a few meetings or conference calls where I’ve been on the line with someone’s whose just been diagnosed or someone whose struggling with cancer, I mean its heart-retching, especially because it hits so close to home for me, especially when I’m speaking to a young woman that’s been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, which is the cancer my mother passed away from, they’re just emotionally draining conversations, and its very hard to leave all of it at the office when you walk out at the end of the day. Often times I take it with me and it sits on me, it’s emotionally difficult sometimes.
Scott: I would imagine when you’re dealing in talking about cancer on a daily basis it must be very difficult, which I can, well I can’t really envision what it would be like because I’m not doing it, but I can picture it to some extent. But it does raise the question which is how do you sustain a movement particularly by a lead, particularly yourself. I can imagine after awhile it gets really difficult to get out of bed with cancer, especially cancer; it’s such a challenging topic. So are there great motivations that remind you the importance of the movement that keep you going, like how do you do it?
Julie: Yeah well I think to be honest it’s really not about me anymore. We have an amazing team of awesome people that we work with everyday that are dedicated to making a difference that want to help, and our team, our board of directors, everyone involved in our community. It’s not about me having t lead anything, it really is about this incredible platform and community that we’ve created, and just being around people that like I said wake up every morning and they want to make a difference, they’re committing to making a change, and they’re giving themselves to create a better world. That’s inspiring within its self. Its definitely something I look to and hold onto as much as I can.
Scott: I always said that physical events and manifestations are really critical part f creating a movement, but are there other tools that you have used that have played an important role, like social media?
Julie: Yeah that’s been a massive part for us, and that’s actually where Yale’s F-Cancer, before we merged, was so strong with social media and digital presence online so that’s something that has been really great for us and it’s something that continues to be a massive part of what w do. Its where our world is right now. Most of what’s going on is all online, its all of digital, so we need to not only know how to tap in to it, but know how to be at the forefront of all of those outlets.
Scott: What advice do you have for people out there who want to start a movement?
Julie: I think for me the biggest, well one of the biggest things I would say is to hold onto the reason why you want to start it, and to make sure that’s at the front and center of whatever you do. So if ts because you lost someone or if you care deeply about another cause or you’ve been affected by it, to keep that front and center when you’re trying to build it because there’s other things that can get in the way. But if you rally hold on to what drives you and what pushes you can’t really fail.
Scott: Do you have a goal for your movement and organization?
Julie: Yeah our goal is to continue making a difference in the cancer space by building out these important programs that fall under early detection, prevention, continue with our education, continue working on the ground with really awesome clinics and schools in underserved communities, and continue growing our social platform and model.
Scott: Well this has been a fantastic chat with you today Julie, I very much appreciate you for speaking honestly about all aspects of you movement. Are there ways that you suggest people can get involved in Fuck Cancer or ways that they can connect with you?
Julie: Yeah, anyone can go to our website which is letsfcancer.com, and read about what we do and read about how to get involved. We’re looking for volunteers, even just attending an event is super helpful and supportive, so definitely check out the website because there’s dome really great information there and some really great outlets for people to support our community.
Scott: Great. And are there specific things you think people can help you with?
Julie: In terms of volunteering and stuff?
Scott: I mean are you looking to generate donations, are you looking to change the way people think about cancer, are there specific things people can help you do?
Julie: yeah all of that, we’re always looking for donations, and support in that realm; we’re always looking for volunteers for people to help with all the initiatives and battles we’re doing. Actually one of the things you just said which is really important the behavior aspect. Ultimately we’re looking to change the behavior of a generation. We’re looking to do for our HPV campaign and our other educational campaigns, just even getting involved, reading about what we do, just being connected with us socially and online. We’re looking t shift the behavior of a generation, and the way we know how to do that is through education, and providing people with enough information so just getting connected is really what we’re looking for.
Scott: Fascinating, Julie, thank you so much for joining us today on Uprising. I really appreciated your time, and it’s really fascinating to learn about the background of Fuck Cancer and where you’re going.
Julie: Absolutely, thank you for having me, I appreciate it.