For many women, Mother’s Day is a day to celebrate the joys of motherhood and to honor their own mothers.
But for those who have survived cancer, it is a painful reminder they could not be one.
This Mother’s Day, nonprofit The Chick Mission is launching a campaign that aims to educate people about the lack of fertility benefits provided to women with cancer, preventing them from becoming biological parents.
On May 9, beginning at midnight, LinkNYC kiosks across five boroughs and the billboard in Times Square will feature digital-motion images of an ultrasound from a woman rendered infertile by cancer. The billboard will read: “Having cancer isn’t a choice. Having kids still should be.”
The campaign, created pro bono in collaboration with creative agency Mischief and Dini von Mueffling Communications, will run for 24-hours and aims to create awareness on the lack of coverage from insurance companies that refuse to pay for fertility preservation.
“There's so many issues that are out of sight, out of mind and there's no reason why [someone] would know that fertility benefits don't cover egg freezing, or that cancer patients who need fertility preservation aren’t covered by policies,” said Tracy Weiss, director of The Chick Mission and a cancer survivor. “The creative ties in what it's like when one day you're a woman, a professional, a sister and a daughter and suddenly you're a patient, and all of your choices are taken away from you because no one chooses to have cancer.”
Amanda Rice, founder of The Chick Mission and three-time survivor of breast cancer and melanoma said she hopes the campaign will impact legislation to push insurance companies to cover fertility preservation, which is currently only covered in 10 states.
“Infertility is a side effect of treatment,” Rice said. “You should still be able to choose what your life looks like on the other side. I want everyone to pay attention to this vulnerable population.”
In 40 states, insurance does not cover fertility preservation for cancer patients unless a woman can prove that she has attempted to get pregnant for six months without success. Still, other regulations place barriers to egg-freezing, such as the requirement for hormone treatment and other methods prior to approval.
That is nearly impossible for women who may only have at least three weeks between diagnosis and life-saving treatment, Rice said.
Costs for preservation independent of medical insurance can also be a burden for women who want to become mothers post-treatment, as the average cost for egg preservation is $15,000 plus annual storage costs. As a result, many women have to choose between future fertility and life saving treatment.
“Mother's Day is a very loaded holiday for women in mine and Amanda's position,” Weiss said. “We have so many children in our lives, but we’re not moms. It's not just hearts and flowers for all women.”
Rice founded The Chick Mission in 2017 after being denied fertility preservation leading up to her third round of cancer treatment. She currently lives in Texas where she is campaigning with Weiss for House Bill 293, which mandates that fertility preservation be treated as a side effect of cancer in the state.