In the Pink

In the PinkMaryann Makekau inspires hope with children’s book seriesBy Ann McQueen

When Maryann Makekau’s dear friend was diagnosed with breast cancer, she wanted to help, and she knew hope was the way to do so. It was through this journey that a series of educational books was born to help children and adults alike understand the battle with breast cancer and win.

Makekau’s friend, Vicki Kennedy, was a teacher when she learned of her diagnosis and decided to keep working while she fought her battle. Makekau, who retired in Fort Walton Beach with her husband, searched for the right book to explain the process to Kennedy’s second-grade class. She could not find anything.

“I had a pastor, Pastor James, who always said, ‘If you see something missing, it’s God’s way of showing you what to do,’” Makekau said.

 Mary Makekau speaks to the child in us all. Photo courtesy Maryann Makekau

So she sat down and created what became the first title in her Little Pink Book series, “When Your Teacher Has Cancer.” Written on pink paper for elementary-aged children and bound at Kinko’s, she presented it to her friend with no intention of publishing it.

The book leads readers through the process of understanding cancer and its treatment. It also addresses the emotional aspects of the journey, like the array of feelings people have when a loved one has cancer, how to cope with changes in appearance, how to ease fear through asking questions and how to support the patient.

Makekau was struck by the fact that every student there had been impacted in some way by cancer. She was also inspired by how well the book was received by those who heard the presentation. She realized she had a mission.
Makekau queried publishers and received an offer, but the terms were not what she had hoped for. 

“I thought to myself, if I’m going to do this, it’s got to give back and help win the fight. I wanted the benefit to go to the core of the disease,” she said.

Her son, Derek Makekau, a graphic designer and owner of 20/30north Studios, created the book’s affable stick characters. He also designed it. The self-published piece was born, and Makekau decided to donate the proceeds to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Contagiously motivated, she found herself sharing the book with support groups and other audiences. It is here that she found the inspiration for the next two titles in the series, “When Your Mom Has Cancer” and “When Mom’s Cancer Doesn’t Go Away.”

In fact, she gets to know her audience, since it is through survivors’ experiences that she gains insight into the coping and healing process. Expertise gleaned from a career in research and psychological testing helps her ask the right questions. Though her books are written with elementary school-aged children in mind, they speak to the children in all of us and appeal to audiences of all ages.

Two more titles are in the works. “When Your Grandma Has Cancer” addresses issues of coping with a grandmother’s cancer. “When Your Grandma Forgets” offers understanding of Alzheimer’s disease. No release dates are available yet. Portions of proceeds from the sales of these books also support various organizations.
Makekau, who is also an Air Force veteran, created a second series called the Little Patriot Books that helps children cope with deployment.

When she is not writing, marketing and distributing her books or addressing cancer support groups, hospices and other audiences, she finds respite in cooking, swimming her daily mile and spending time with her family.

Excerpt from “When Your Teacher Has Cancer”:“When someone you love is sick, it can make you feel confused and not sure about what to do. It can also make you feel sad because you can’t fix it or make it go away. There are other things you can do that are helpful though.”

Upcoming EventsSecond Annual Event with Buffalo Wild Wings
Uptown Station, Fort Walton Beach, Oct. 6, 6:30–9 p.m.

Coffee for a Cure
Starbucks at Uptown Station Fort Walton Beach
Oct. 7, 2–6 p.m.

A Taste of Wellness with a Little Pink Book
Aunt Martha’s Bed and Breakfast, Fort Walton Beach,
Oct. 8, 6:30–8:30 p.m.

For more information on any of these events and to order Little Pink Books, visit