Home > 2016 > April

NAN’s New Partnership

The Nanny Angel Network is so excited to announce their new partnership with Canadian fashion label Miik this Mother’s Day. Miik, a Canadian fashion label focused on making environmentally friendly clothing that suits all body types, has created a one-of-a-kind infinity scarf in its custom bamboo fabric just for the Nanny Angel Network! With 50% of profits going directly to NAN, this is truly a case of women helping and supporting other women. Miik is led by President Susan Cadman and co-founder Donna Smith, both Canadian moms who were touched when they learned about the Nanny Angel Network and the services that it provides to mothers with cancer in the GTA.

“Donna and I are both working moms and when we learned what the Nanny Angel Network does for Canadian women it really hit home for us,” says Cadman. “The NAN scarf is our way of supporting fellow Canadian moms who are going through the toughest of times.” Miik’s NAN scarf is an incredibly soft, tri-colour infinity scarf in fuchsia, charcoal, and soft pink, separated by a black stripe. Made using Miik’s custom-milled, luxury bamboo fabric it’s produced entirely in the GTA. “All of our manufacturing is done locally to reduce our carbon footprint and support local businesses. The NAN scarf is truly Canadian,” explains Cadman.

Designed by women, for women and with proceeds supporting women in need, the NAN scarf is a symbol of women coming together to care for each other when it’s needed most. “When a mother is diagnosed with cancer, often her first thought is about her children – who will care for them and how will she manage,” says Audrey Guth, Founder of the Nanny Angel Network. “NAN allows mothers to get the rest they need, while their children get the emotional support needed to thrive through this difficult time in their lives.” NAN’s Nanny Angels are childcare professionals who volunteer to provide support to a family throughout a mother’s cancer treatment, something that wouldn’t be possible without supporters like Miik.

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“We’re so grateful that Miik has designed a scarf to support the Nanny Angel Network – the proceeds will help us to provide care to more moms in the GTA,” says Guth. Whether as a beautiful mother’s day gift or simply a stylish addition to your own wardrobe, the NAN scarf is a great way to support the Nanny Angel Network. Every scarf sold helps to provide free, specialized in-home childcare to mothers with cancer in the GTA.

 


Text: Jensine Jones     Photos: Miik

Blogging with Cancer

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Blogging is becoming a growing hobby or past-time of many people, regardless of age, interests, and experiences. With studies showing that there are positive social effects to blogging, and in blogging about an illness specifically, the team at the Nanny Angel Network was curious about the experience of mothers who blog during their cancer treatment. Is there a community? Does it provide mothers with cancer another form of social support? With these questions in mind, NAN talked to Renee Kaiman, a blogger at My So-Called Mommy Life. Renee is a blogger, a mother, and a cancer survivor, and has benefited from the Nanny Angel Network over the past year.

Renee began blogging long before she received her diagnosis of breast cancer. In fact, she first began blogging to share her experiences as a mother. “I started blogging when my daughter was 9 months old,” Renee told NAN, explaining that all the research that she did while pregnant led to her becoming the person that her friends turned to with their questions. “A few people suggested I start a blog,” Renee said, adding “I’m so glad I did!” After her cancer diagnosis, Renee made the conscious decision not to change the way she blogged because of the cancer. “My blogging changed in that my blog now includes posts about my treatment as well as life with and after cancer,” she explained, but at the same time, she made an effort to give her readers “the same blog that I did before I was diagnosed.”

Making the decision to disclose her diagnosis to her audience wasn’t an easy one for Renee. “I wasn’t quite sure how I would disclose my diagnosis to anyone,” Renee said. “My closest family and friends knew but I sat on how I would tell everyone else for a while.” Eventually, she made the decision to share her diagnosis on her blog in the hopes that everyone she knew would read it. “I wanted my news to come from me. I didn’t want it to be a broken telephone type situation or one that included whispers,” Renee explained. “I think it also was the right thing to do because I was young, only 33, and pretty much the first person in my social circles to receive this diagnosis.” On the 1st of April, 2015, while sitting in the waiting room for her first round of chemotherapy, a post called ‘When life hands you cancer’ went live on Renee’s blog.

Renee had another reason for wanting to share her diagnosis with her blogging audience. “I decided to share my experience to show that although cancer is scary it can happen to anyone,” Renee said, “I’ve shared a lot of personal experiences about cancer, and I have been contacted by many other young mothers with breast cancer who have read my blog and could relate to my words.” When she was first diagnosed, Renee attempted to find other young woman bloggers with cancer diagnoses, but didn’t have much luck. “I hope that other young woman will find the solace that I was looking for,” Renee said, emphasizing how much it means to her when woman with cancer reading her blog do reach out to her. “It reminds me that what I’m doing is helpful to others moms,” she said.

“Even though I was surrounded by so many supportive people, you don’t often sit down and discuss your fears. My blog has given me an outlet to share my deepest feelings with those who know me and those who don’t.”

Renee believes that her blog and Instagram both played significant roles in changing her experience of cancer. “The support I have received has been amazing and so many fellow bloggers have been so incredibly supportive of me,” Renee stated. “It gave me an outlet to share how I felt. Whether it was sharing my initial diagnosis, to the night before my double mastectomy, I was able to share and let people know how I was feeling,” Renee said, adding that it made her feel supported through the most difficult parts of her cancer treatment. “I always received amazing feedback which let me know I was doing the right thing.”

There was a final reason for Renee to continue blogging through her cancer treatment, and her choice to openly discuss her cancer treatment on her blog. “Part of me also blogged during my treatment so that if anything should ever happen to me…  my kids [would] know from my words how I really felt during this whole thing,” Renee said. Overall, she hopes the message people get from her blog is a positive one. “I’m a mom like most of my readers who got a shitty diagnosis,” Renee explains. “Instead of letting it ruin my life, I decided to face it head on and not let it dictate my life. Cancer will always be a part of who I am now, but it isn’t all that I am.”

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Renee Kaiman has been blogging at My So-Called Mommy Life since 2012. The 35-year-old mother of two is a breast cancer survivor, and a recent graduate from NAN’s Nanny Angels program. You can find her online at her blog, twitter, and Instagram.

Text: Jensine Jones      Photos: Nanny Angel Network
Sources: Journal of Health CommunicationCommunication ResearchHealth Blogging

Volunteering in Retirement

Choosing to volunteer your time in retirement comes with a host of benefits. From providing a transition from working life to retired life, to giving you a sense of purpose, to connecting you to a network of other volunteers, there are many ways in which volunteering as a retiree can improve your life. There are even health benefits – former director of the Centre on Aging at the University of Victoria, Neena Chappell, reports that retirees who volunteer, “especially if it involves helping others, are happier and healthier in their later years.”

Dianne Levy is a retired teacher who has been volunteering with the Nanny Angel Network since early 2015. She says that she decided to begin volunteering because she “wanted to help others and give back to the community.” When asked why she choose NAN over other organizations, Dianne replied that she picked NAN because she could see the need for the Nanny Angel Network in the community, and was impressed by Audrey, the founder of the organization. She added that Angel’s make an incredible difference in the lives of families going through cancer treatment and recovery.

Dianne has been volunteering almost as long as she has been retired, giving her a firm grasp on what volunteering in retirement is like. “If you have the time and you want to give back and enjoy the feeling of giving, do it,” Dianne said when asked what she would say to someone who is about to retire and is thinking about volunteering. “There is no better feeling than to be needed and appreciated.” Dianne also emphasized that choosing an organization that is a good fit for you is important when deciding whether or not to volunteer in retirement. “To be an Angel you have to be a certain type of individual,” she said. “Not everyone I know would be suited to this type of volunteer position.” Of course, the Nanny Angel Network has plenty of volunteer positions beyond Nanny Angels, including providing help in the office as well as roles around fundraising.

We also asked Dianne if she had a favourite story from her time volunteering with NAN that she’d like to share, and she was happy to tell us all about the kids she works with.

One story makes me laugh. We go to the park when the weather is conducive for playing outdoors. The two children I work with are 6 and 3. We play pretend. In their eyes, I am a kid, not a grandmother. They asked me to climb the monkey bars.  I am a Princess, a Queen, a fireman, and a witch. Their imaginations are endless. Little are they aware that my joints are not what they used to be. In their minds, they think I am a youngster with unlimited energy and dexterity. It makes me laugh because in a few years, I will be an old lady to them, but now, I am just a kid.

Dianne told NAN that volunteering has really taught her a lot, including patience and understanding. “It has brought out my imagination. Volunteering has channeled the child in me. I have become a better person. I have learned to be grateful and to cherish ALL moments.” When asked if she had any last comments, Dianne emphasized again how important she sees the work that NAN does. “I think the Nanny Angel Network is truly amazing,” she says, adding, “I just wish more people were aware of this agency because there is such a great need for this service.”

The Nanny Angel Network is always looking for new Nanny Angels to join our team of dedicated volunteers! To become a Nanny Angel, you must have one year of recent professional childcare experience, which can include being a professional nanny, nursing, teaching, social work, or a student currently enrolled in programs for careers involving childcare. You must also be a legal resident of Canada, physically and mentally fit to provide unsupervised care for children, a minimum of 18 years of age, have a clear vulnerable sector police check (which can be arranged through NAN)), current CPR and First Aid training (also can be arranged through NAN), and two references related to childcare experience. The Nanny Angel Network also provides specialized training for all of our volunteers, which includes a seminar on Grief and Loss with Andrea Warnick.

If you’d like to become a Nanny Angel with NAN, fill out our online application!

Dianne Levy

Dianne Levy photographed by Omar Duragos


Text: Jensine Jones       Sources: theglobeandmail.com

Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon

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Are you looking to reach a personal fitness goal in 2016? Or perhaps looking for a family-friendly race to get your kids active and giving back?

NAN is excited to announce that it is one of the charities that you can fundraise for as a participant of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon! On October 16, tens of thousands of people will take to Toronto’s streets to participate in the annual 5k, half marathon, and full marathon races.

For the first time ever, NAN will be putting together a team of runners, with fundraising dollars going directly to supporting our Nanny Angels and mothers through our programming.

“We are so excited to launch this new opportunity. The run is a fun and family-friendly way to get involved and support the tremendous efforts of our Nanny Angel volunteers,” says NAN Founder, Audrey Guth. While this is a new program for NAN, it is our goal to raise $7,000 with the help of our supporters.

No matter your age, or if you like to run or walk, all are welcome to join us! As a member of our team, you will benefit from a special edition NAN t-shirt, fundraising support and assistance, as well as a special invitation to a pre-race dinner where you will meet our Founder and hear from the people who can speak to the benefit of your support – our moms.

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Text: Rebecca Babcock            Photos: Nanny Angel Network

In Sickness

In Sickness

Supporting someone you love when they’ve been diagnosed with cancer is difficult. Worrying about saying the wrong thing, their emotional state, and what will happen to your relationship all factor into your interactions with them from the moment they tell you about their diagnosis. It is inevitable that you may say or do something that negatively impacts your loved one with cancer. Depending on their personality and your relationship, they may not tell you when you do something wrong.

Luckily, other cancer patients don’t have that problem! There is a wealth of online articles discussing the do’s and don’ts of interacting with your loved one who is sick, which can be overwhelming. However, there are several points that come up again and again when discussing how best to be there for your loved one with cancer. We have collected the most essential pieces together in this list of how to best be there for your loved one:

Do: take your cues from them. If they don’t want to talk about it, don’t push them into a conversation they aren’t prepared for or don’t want to have. Asking someone to share details about their treatment and what is happening to their body is intensely personal.

Don’t: share your cancer story. Telling someone who has been diagnosed with cancer about how your mother-in-law died of cancer is not helpful… and might send the wrong message about what you think their chances of survival are.

Do: let them know you care, that you will be there for them, and that you will support them in whatever capacity they need… even if that doesn’t match what you think they need.

Don’t: ask how they are. People with cancer are constantly inundated with questions about their health, their disease, their state of mind… and it is exhausting. Let them know that you’re there for them if they want to talk, but don’t push.

Do: include them in normal social events, but also be understanding if they have to cancel or decline.

Don’t: try to be empathetic by saying you understand how they feel. Sympathize, but don’t compare your experiences and feelings to theirs if you have never had cancer. Phrases such as “I can’t imagine how you feel” are far more meaningful, and real, than “I know exactly how you feel”.

Do: listen without adding your own input. This can be challenging, but can also be so meaningful to someone who is sick.

Don’t: recommend a miracle cure you found on the internet. Just… don’t.

Do: avoid platitudes such as “everything happens for a reason” and “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” that don’t mean much… and that they’re constantly hearing from everyone else in their life.

Don’t: tell them to stay positive, or any other message that tells the cancer patient to regulate their outward displays of their emotions. “Stay positive”, “you’re so strong”, and “you’re so brave” all communicate to cancer patients that they can’t reveal their real moods to you without judgement, that they can’t display any weakness, and that they are at fault for their own illness because they weren’t upbeat enough.

Do: respect their decisions when it comes to their treatment and their health.

All of this advice boils down to one simple principle: this is not about you, but the person with cancer. This idea is encapsulated by the Ring Theory, developed by Susan Silk, a clinical psychologist, when she had breast cancer. It uses rings in a circle to designate proximity to a trauma, with the person experiencing the trauma (in this case, cancer) in the very centre. The person in the centre ring can say whatever they want about their trauma. So can everyone else – but only to people in the larger rings. When talking to someone in a smaller ring than yours, the goal is to help, to listen and provide comfort and support.

Ultimately, this is the most important thing you can do for someone with cancer. Mistakes in language, phrasing, and terminology are inevitable and understandable, and very much forgiveable. Being mindful of the impact your words can have, listening carefully to what your loved one is saying, and being there for them throughout their treatment is the most important thing you can do for your loved one with cancer.

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Sources: cancer.org | cancer.ca | caring.com | abc.net.au | latimes.com
Text: Jensine Jones            Photos: emilymcdowell.com