Happy birthday?

Macy and I were watching Animal Planet (aren’t we always??) when this commercial came on. There’s a series of them, created by the American Cancer Society through the More Birthdays campaign. I like this campaign. I give it two thumbs up. The list of musicians who have participated is long — from Aaron Neville to Weezer, with plenty of variety in between. Even my personal fave, Jack Johnson, got involved.

According to the ACS:

“We believe every birthday you celebrate is a victory. Another year that cancer has not prevailed. Your birthday means everything to us. That’s why we’re dedicated to creating a world with less cancer and more birthdays. Thanks in part to our work, 11 million cancer survivors will celebrate another birthday this year. But we can’t stop there. With your help, we can create a world with even more celebrations, more laughter, and more birthdays for all.”


Macy was puzzled by the campaign, which surprised me. Cancer has been a part of her life for most of her life — my mom was sick during Macy’s preschool years, then we had several “normal” years before I was diagnosed. Kids whose parents have cancer grow up fast — they face the ugly realities of illness, fear, uncertainty, hospitalizations, treatments, doctors’ appointments, and death.

My girl didn’t quite get the point of the campaign for more birthdays. I would have guessed just the opposite — that because she’d witnessed my cancer “journey” firsthand, she’d understand exactly what the ad meant. I guess it’s a good thing that my kid doesn’t associate my cancer with death and, by extension, with no more birthdays. It’s a slippery slope when dealing with young kiddos and disease. On one hand, I’ve tried to be open and honest about my “journey” with my kids, but on the other hand, I sure don’t want to plant the seed that makes them realize that, hey, wait — people die from this, so Mom could too.

What’s the right answer to the “how much is too much info” question? I haven’t the faintest idea. There’s so much about the cancer “journey” that lacks a definite answer. Come to think of it, there’s so much in parenting that lacks a definite answer. I’m sure there are a million and one books on amazon.com about the best way to talk to kids about cancer. I was way too busy upon diagnosis, though, to order any, much less read them. Having cancer is a full-time job, as is raising young kids. So I never found the right answer, and decided to just wing it. So far so good, as evidenced by the fact that my favorite girl doesn’t understand the campaign for more birthdays.


5 Comments on “Happy birthday?”

  1. You taught your girl well. Often all the books in the world won’t address the toughest questions and dilemmas we face in our personal lives. We just have to “wing it.” It never occurred to me that a child might be confused by this ad campaign, but there you have it. Thanks for this enlightening post. I hope the ACS gets wind of it. XOXO, Jan

  2. David Benbow says:

    I haven’t seen any of the ads although we watch Animal Planet a lot at our house (especially my son Jake, who thinks that Finding Bigfoot is the best show in town), but here’s to MORE BIRTHDAYS! And more champagne to celebrate them with.


  3. I am all for more birthdays! I had a mastectomy two days ago. I will be 45 in two days. Nothing will make me happier than celebrating my 50th, cancer free!
    Cancer Warrior

  4. […] The Pink Underbelly has been musing on what and how much you should your child when you have been diagnosed with cancer  Having cancer is a full-time job, as is raising young kids. So I never found the right answer, and decided to just wing it. […]

  5. Stacey says:

    It sounds as if you’ve done an amazing job with Macy. Her belief is based on your example of moving on. How great is that? My boys were 3 and 5 when I was diagnosed and since I didn’t have chemo, only those we chose to tell knew the story and we chose not to tell my boys. I do want them to know someday, hopefully, I can tell them on my terms and not because of some recurrence, but you never know. This is something I think about often.

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