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A Mom’s Story: Beth

“One of the cutest things is that she kind of sees the Nanny Angel as a friend who is coming over to visit her. I’ve just kept it like that, I don’t call her a babysitter.  It’s like her special friend who is an adult. So, I think that makes her feel kind of special. It’ll be a sad day on our last Nanny Angel visit.”

Raising a 4-year-old is challenging no matter which way you cut it. Add on a cancer diagnosis and you’re on a whole different playing field. This is the reality that Beth and her husband Todd were forced to confront in 2015.

Beth was first diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2015 and underwent a mastectomy soon after. Surgery was followed by chemotherapy, chemotherapy by radiation, and radiation by more medication. “The biggest challenge was probably looking after my daughter, for sure,” Beth said.

During the first few months of treatment, Beth and Todd struggled to juggle an overwhelming number of doctor’s appointments, chemotherapy sessions, and medical decisions while still trying to maintain some normalcy for their daughter, Charlotte. Beth had to constantly arrange for family, friends, or paid help to look after Charlotte. “I could never let a day go by where there was nobody involved,” she said. One chemotherapy treatment was particularly bad because its side effects were so unpredictable. “It was a bit unsettling not knowing how bad I was going to feel with the next treatment or how much help I was going to need.”

When the Nanny Angel Network stepped in, taking care of Charlotte suddenly became one less thing Beth had to worry about. Having a Nanny Angel meant there was someone who Beth could consistently rely on to care for Charlotte – no questions asked or favours owed. Having a few extra hours each week meant that Beth could take the chance to sleep or read a book. As she moved farther along her recovery journey and regained strength, she joined an exercise class that helped her get back into shape and return to a more normal rhythm of life. One evening, Beth and Todd got to go out for dinner while the Nanny Angel was over – a rare opportunity they hadn’t had in a very long time.

While Beth has since recovered and graduated from the Nanny Angel Network’s services, her and Charlotte cherish the memories of their Nanny Angel – and the help she provided to their whole family.

Charlotte and her Nanny Angel, Jen

Audrey Guth: 2017 Women of Worth Honouree

Audrey Guth: 2017 Women of Worth Honouree

In early 2017, the Nanny Angel Network was thrilled to announce that NAN founder Audrey Guth had been named a recipient of L’Oréal Paris’s inaugural Canadian Women of Worth program.

The signature philanthropic program embodies the L’Oréal Paris belief that ‘Every Woman Is Worth It’ by elevating and celebrating women who find beauty in giving back. The 10 Women of Worth Honourees were celebrated and awarded more than $100,000 in charitable grants at an Awards Gala on March 8, International Women’s Day, hosted by L’Oréal Paris spokesperson, award-winning actress and humanitarian, Blake Lively.

“We have been inspired and awestruck by the hundreds of Women of Worth nominations we received about extraordinary Canadian women who are selflessly volunteering their time and talents to make Canada a better place,” said Stephanie Binette, General Manager, L’Oréal Paris in Canada. “Our first Canadian Women of Worth are advocates for refugees and the homeless, and champions for women and youth in need, among many other important causes. We applaud this year’s Honourees.”

The Women of Worth program honours Canadian women who selflessly volunteer their time to serve and improve their communities. In its inaugural year in Canada, the program received more than 350 nominations which were judged by L’Oréal Paris, Points of Light, the world’s largest volunteer service organization, and esteemed volunteer leadership experts. Selection criteria was based on the impact of the cause on the social fabric of the community, the nominee’s ability to meet an unmet community need or concern, as well as the passion and innovation she has demonstrated to effect change.

2017 L'Oreal Paris Women of Worth Honouree Audrey Guth with actress Blake Lively

2016 Nanny Angel of the Year Award

Every year, we recognize the outstanding commitment, dedication and enthusiasm of one of our Nanny Angel volunteers.

Meet our 2016 Nanny Angel of the Year, Verna Ross.

Verna has been a dedicated Nanny Angel since April 2014. In her time with NAN, she has logged over 350 hours and provided support to 10 families. Verna has touched many lives. Below is just one example of the difference she makes for the families she supports.

“A very big thank you to Verna for her absolute devotion and dedication. She is truly an angel. She has shown so much love, care and kindness to me and my son.  My son eagerly looks forward to their outings together and I can tell when he gets home from each outing that he’s had so much fun.” – Felicia, NAN Mom

When asked why she chooses to volunteer her time with the Nanny Angel Network, Verna expressed how much she appreciates having the opportunity to share her expertise in childcare. Verna was beyond gracious when we presented her with the award, saying, “it is a privilege to be a Nanny Angel and an honour to have mothers entrust their children to me during their struggle with cancer. Your organization has enabled me to reach out to mothers who both need and appreciate help. My volunteering experience with NAN has been very rewarding and special.”

Congratulations to Verna on being awarded our 2016 Nanny Angel of the Year!

Our work at the Nanny Angel Network would not be possible without amazing volunteers like Verna. We appreciate all our Nanny Angels for volunteering their time, opening up their heart and providing support to NAN families when they need it most.

Relax & Colour

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Colouring books have been a favourite childhood activity for generations. Books often feature children’s favourite characters from television, movies, or books, as well as animals and other cute subjects. NAN’s Nanny Angels often use colouring books while working with children who are coping with a parent’s cancer. It is often during these quiet moments that a child will open up and feel safe to ask questions they are afraid to ask anyone else. Happily, Nanny Angels are specially trained to answer the difficult questions children have about their parent’s illness.

More recently, there has also been a huge trend towards colouring books for adults. The craze began in 2013 when Scottish illustrator Johanna Basford was asked by a British publishing house to create a colouring book for children based off her designs. Instead, she proposed a colouring book for adults, and Secret Garden soon became an international bestseller, followed by Enchanted Forest and Lost Ocean.

For children, colouring books are a great way to occupy their time. They also provide a number of developmental benefits, from fine motor skills to eye tracking and focusing. “When a child colours in set spaces… she must coordinate a complex set of skills,” wrote homeschool teacher Marilisa Sachteleben. However, some are less enthusiastic about children’s colouring books.

New York-based art therapist Nadia Jenefsky explained in an interview with Quartz that children are so creative that colouring books often hamper them, forcing them to conform to pre-set designs rather than stretching their innate creativity. “I don’t buy colouring books for my kids,” Jean Van’t Hul writes on her website, The Artful Parent. “I’d rather have them draw their own art than color in someone else’s.”

Whether you agree or disagree on the benefits of colouring books for children, the recent trend in adult colouring books has turned colouring into an activity that parents and children can both enjoy. Sitting down and colouring with your child is something that doesn’t take a lot of energy – perfect for a parent undergoing draining and extensive cancer treatments – and can be taken with you wherever you go. Besides being an excellent low-energy activity to do with your child, there are additional benefits for colouring for parents who are going through the immense stress of cancer treatments.

Though the American Art Therapy Association has cautioned that there is a difference between art therapy and art that is therapeutic, adult colouring books can be very relaxing for adults, and the organization has supported their use for pleasure and self-care. “People with a lot of anxiety respond really well to colouring books,” art therapist Jenefsky explained, “There are some choices involved – in terms of choosing what colours you’re gong to use and how you’re blending your colours – but there’s also a lot of structure.”

From the beautiful and delicate designs of Millie Marotta’s Animal Kingdom to the cheeky Color Me Swoon, with its images of Hollywood stars, the adult colouring book trend has produced a huge variety of colouring books. As an activity to do with your children when you don’t have much energy left or simply as a way to relax and unwind after treatment, adult colouring books are perfect for parents undergoing cancer treatments.

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Text: Jensine Jones
Sources: CBC Quartz The Artful Parent hubpages

Celebrate with ECHOage

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In 2008 ECHOage was created by two moms who wanted to introduce their children to the idea of giving back to the community through charitable donations. Their goal was to make giving to charity a fun and exciting activity for children while also making the lives of parents easier. ECHOage’s innovative structure splits funds raised through a party between a charity and the party’s host. This allows the child to choose their own gift, as well as giving them the experience of picking a charity to support.

“When you are blessed, it is important for the kids to learn what it means to give,” said Jordy, a mother whose daughter recently celebrated her birthday through an ECHOage party. Giving through ECHOage is a yearly tradition in their household, with the children picking out a different charity every year. Jordy explained that her family believes that when you are in a position of privilege, it is essential to teach your children the importance of giving to those who are less fortunate.

Jordy’s daughter, Ella, was the one to choose the Nanny Angel Network for her birthday. Every year her and her mom sit down and go through the list of charities on the ECHOage website, discussing the ones that catch Ella’s eye. Jordy was already familiar with NAN when it caught Ella’s attention, and she was able to explain to Ella the services the Nanny Angel Network provides to mothers with cancer and their children. Ella, who has her own nanny that she adores, found NAN’s mission very relatable, and told her mother that she would like NAN to be the charity to benefit from her birthday this year.

Jordy emphasized the importance of the lessons that are taught to children through ECHOage parties. “It’s not even really a choice in our household,” she said. She believes it is important for her daughter to learn that you don’t need a million presents, that you can still get gifts while also giving back to someone else.

The lessons taught to children through giving to charity are ones that stay with them throughout their lives. By hosting a party through ECHOage, children learn to think about what life is like for other people and the ease with which they can impact the world around them in a positive way. The Nanny Angel Network, which provides childcare to children who are going through some of the hardest times of their lives, is an excellent choice for children looking to help other children. Giving to NAN through ECHOage allows Canadian children to have a direct impact upon their community.

Community support is key to NAN’s success, and we are always so excited when someone chooses to support us in providing more mothers with cancer the support they need during this challenging time. For every dollar that is donated to NAN, we are able to provide two dollars of specialized, in-home relief childcare to mothers with cancer.

Please consider hosting an ECHOage party and selecting the Nanny Angel Network as your charity of choice. Simply go to echoage.com to register, create an event invitation, and choose NAN as your charity. If you have any questions, or would be interested in raising money for NAN in a different way, please contact us at admin@nannyangelnetwork.com or by phone at 416-730-0025 x0.

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A Mom’s Story: Heather

“I just feel like I’ve lost myself. I have nothing left that used to be me.  I can’t even walk anymore.  I just want my life back.”

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Heather had thought nothing of the tissue samples that were taken during her breast reduction surgery in December 2014.  But within a few weeks of her surgery, she got a call she’d never expected: she had breast cancer.  Her whole world was suddenly turned upside down.  Heather went from being a full-time worker and mother of 2 boys, Nathan and Jesse, to a full-time patient undergoing surgery and chemotherapy.

A double mastectomy left her unable to lift her hands and made everyday tasks difficult.  For months, Heather struggled through the recovery process and the start of an aggressive chemotherapy regimen without help.  Each day, she still got out of bed at 6:30am to wake up her 8 year old son Nathan for school.  Some days, she was so nauseous after getting up that she’d have to ask her older son Jesse to get Nathan out of bed.  But nothing was going to stop her from making sure that Nathan was properly cared for and supported.

One day at the hospital in March 2015, Heather came across a pamphlet for the Nanny Angel Network (NAN).  After being encouraged by a friend to contact the agency, Heather had two Nanny Angels looking after Nathan.

“The two Nanny Angels that I have are amazing.  They really are.  They’re really good.  And they’ll think ahead.  They’ll plan something for the next time.  Or they’ll bring something that they want to do.  So they’ve been really good.”  One of Nathan’s Nanny Angels found out that he wants to be a scientist when he grows up – so what better way to spend their time together than by doing science experiments?  Backyard volcanoes, lava lamps and rock collections soon ensued and Nathan couldn’t have had more fun doing it.  Nathan’s other Nanny Angel discovered different things he loved to do, like Lego, battleship and treasure hunts in the park.

Having the Nanny Angels take care of Nathan was a great source of relief for Heather.  “Before NAN came I was worried trying to find something for Nathan to do or go and trying to make arrangements for him when I’m really not well and not feeling up to it but still stressing over what was going to happen with him. When I had the Nanny Angels, they knew when to come and they would just come when I asked them and I didn’t have to stress. I didn’t have to worry so much. I knew Nathan would be okay and he’d be out playing and wouldn’t be watching me receive chemotherapy treatment.”  During the Nanny Angels visits, Heather is able to do the one thing she needs most: rest. Sometimes, that meant retreating to her bedroom to lie down.  Other times, when she was too weak, she would stay downstairs on the couch and quietly watch Nathan and the Nanny Angel playing together.

Nanny Angel Network’s services have been even more vital to Heather given her level of family support.  “My first chemo treatment, my sister was supposed to take me and the day before she canceled and said “I can’t do it.”  So I had to scramble to find a ride to the hospital and back.  And then that day I wasn’t feeling good, so I called my mom to see if she could bring McDonald’s over for Nathan because… I was just so sick and didn’t have time to make dinner.  She came in, brought him McDonald’s, looked at me and she wouldn’t stay. I asked her to stay to help me but she just said “I can’t” and left. They can’t deal with what’s happened to me. They can’t look at me.”

Throughout all of these disappointments, obstacles and challenges, one thing has kept Heather going: Nathan. “If I didn’t have him, I would be totally different. I think I probably would be crying, laying there doing nothing. But he doesn’t give me the opportunity.”  Nathan’s joyful and resilient spirit has brought humour into a difficult situation. With Heather’s hair starting to come back, she decided to buy a wig and wear it to pick him up from school one day. Noticing the wig, Nathan was quick to say, “Oh, Mommy you look really good.” Which was soon followed by “Can I pull it off?” Heather was simultaneously mortified and amused.

Heather’s battle with cancer is not over. But she is continuing to look for joy in her everyday life. “I say this to people, that, you may not understand, it’s this horrible thing we’re going through, but I’ve been lucky in some ways. We’ve had a lot of nice things happen that wouldn’t have happened. Like the nannies – we wouldn’t have met them. And Nathan enjoys them. He really does.”

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Text and Photos: Nanny Angel Network

A Mom’s Story: Cheryl

“I didn’t jump right away to calling it “cancer”. Initially, I talked [to my kids] about having a blood disorder, and that might have been more for me than them, I wasn’t quite ready to use the cancer word myself.”

Multiple myeloma: those are the words Cheryl, mother of three, did not want her children to associate with the idea of mom. After seeing her family doctor for fatigue and excruciating back pain that nearly lead to tears with movement, Cheryl was faced with a diagnosis that could change her and her family’s life significantly.

“I can do most things. But at the pace of 60% of what a normal person could do. Basically I operate like a 70-year-old. If you wanted to picture it, look at my mom, and I have about the get-up-and-go that she has.”

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Multiple myeloma is a blood cancer that is very difficult to treat, and requiring different combinations of medications to manage. Because of this, Cheryl requires regular doctor appointments, and as a result of her many medications, has been in and out of hospitals for complications.

“I’m in constant treatment. I’ll do one thing until that stops working, and then they’ll switch me to something else, till they run out of things to switch me to. The treatment I’m on now results me in having very low immunity to anything […] over the holidays, I was in hospital for shingles, meningitis, and an intestinal infection. Last march, I was in hospital for a week with pneumonia, and a blood infection. I don’t just get a cold, I get in terrible situations. [It’s] eye opening to me in terms of just how unreliable my body has become. That’s a bitter pill to swallow.”

With three children, ages 12, 9, 5, Cheryl and her husband were struggling to balance everything from the medical appointments, working, and taking care of the family, all on their own.

“My daughter was going to a program 2 days a week, which was the only way during the initial stages of me getting really sick that I could even manage, and I was just trying to fit all my appointments on those 2 days. The other 3 days, I was basically lying around feeling crappy and useless.”

Living a distance away from family, and feeling the increasing burden of asking for help from friends, Cheryl was able to turn to the Nanny Angel Network (NAN) for support. NAN understands how vulnerable women can feel when asking for help, and strives to ensure that all mothers feel welcome.

“[It’s] like a sense of not being entirely alone – we don’t have a lot of family support that’s available on a regular basis, so that made it very nice, to feel like there was someone you could call. And also, initially, I was very concerned about finances, and the fact that this was available, free of charge, was a huge benefit. Having someone routinely is really beneficial because then you have this ray of hope […] that one day you’re going to have a couple of hours to go get groceries or something without dragging your kids with you.”

Once Nanny Angels were able to step in, not only was Cheryl able to find more time to focus on her health, but she was also able to spend more quality time with her family.

“During the summer, [NAN visits] coordinated frequently with the day that my 12-year-old had his baseball games, so I was able to actually go see some of his baseball games, because if I go to a game with the other two kids, then there’s no actually watching the game happening. So I was able to watch some of his games which was nice for both of us.”

Cheryl shared how isolated she felt living with a chronic illness. With a little over two years since her diagnosis, Cheryl is still finding that small gestures of kindness can go a long way.

“You know what, it gets a little old. It gets a little old in the second year. People want to think you’re just fine. And we just get so used to this kind of new normal. But last week we had someone out of the blue show up with a great plate of lasagna, and I was really kind of shocked at just how much I appreciated that. Having access to NAN is like that. Sure, we are managing on our own, but when someone cares enough to give of themselves just to make my life a little easier and add enjoyment to the lives of my kids, it is very special. It’s more than a few hours to catch up on some errands, or rest, or even spend one-on-one time with one of my kids. It’s a reminder that there is good in this world and that even if I can’t be there for my children there are others who will be.”

Cheryl is just one of many moms who NAN helps support through their cancer treatment.

This Mother’s Day, please consider supporting NAN in honour of a mother in your life, and help us change the lives of mothers living with cancer.

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Text & Photos: Nanny Angel Network