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Volunteering as a Student

 Smiling volunteer in NAN sweater

Faiza Ali first heard about the Nanny Angel Network (NAN) through her placement coordinator at the University of Guelph-Humber. Originally a student volunteer looking to fulfill her program requirements, Faiza has continued to volunteer with NAN even after completing her placement hours. “The support that this organization offered for me as a student, and now as a volunteer, is phenomenal,” Faiza said, when explaining why she decided to continue volunteering with NAN. She talked about how much the support of the NAN staff meant to her. “NAN opened my eyes to so many opportunities that I had never experienced before,” Faiza said, “from doing the Grief and Loss workshop with Andrea Warnick to going to universities to advocate for the organization, it has all been an incredible experience.”

In July of 2016, Faiza was matched with her NAN family, and has been visiting them ever since. “NAN matched me with my family based on location, school schedule, and comfort level,” Faiza explained. Before starting with her family, she was worried about how she would address difficult situations, such as what would happen if the mother’s condition worsened. “NAN came to the rescue and provided me with the mandatory grief and loss workshop,” Faiza said, “the staff at NAN also connect with me every week, allowing me to have a platform to talk about the visit and express any comments or concerns that I may have.”

For Faiza, spending time with her NAN kids is the best part of volunteering. “Within the first few weeks, I already felt like family, from the weekly activities to the birthday parties,” Faiza said, “the bond really makes me grateful to have discovered NAN.” Working with a family with two young children, Faiza has gotten to be a part of many of the family’s milestones, including the transition from baby talk to full sentences and the first day of school. “I love knowing that their childhood includes their fun Nanny Angel that comes to them every week with surprises, toys, and activities,” Faiza said. “It warms my heart, knowing that the kids are okay to be left alone with me while mom’s away. It makes me realize how much trust the entire family has built since the start of our journey together.” After having to take a month away from volunteering, Faiza returned to learn that the kids had been asking ‘how many more sleeps until Faiza comes back’. “It was just so nice to know that the kids are just as invested in our bond as I am,” Faiza said, “they’re literally the same to me as my own niece and nephew.”

Of course, the children are not the only ones benefiting from Faiza’s visits. Over the course of the past year, Faiza has seen first-hand the positive effects that having a Nanny Angel has on a mother with cancer. “I have nothing but the best things to say about her,” Faiza said of her NAN mom, “the love that she has for her family radiates from her no matter what her condition is after treatments. She’s the most selfless woman that I have ever met and knowing that I can be a part of her journey is nothing but amazing.” She said that being a part of the family’s cancer journey has made her realize the importance for moms to have the peace of mind of knowing that their children are in good hands. While volunteering, Faiza also learned the difference that having a few hours to catch up with sleep, or having a meal without worrying about what her kids are doing, makes for a mom with cancer. The most rewarding part of volunteering, Faiza said, is knowing that her family’s world is changing and, with her visits, they know that they are supported and loved. “I like to think about volunteering as not about saving the whole world through huge actions, but making a difference in a person’s world.”

For other students looking for volunteer experience, Faiza couldn’t recommend NAN enough. “The love that I have for this organization and the family that I’m with is indescribable,” she said, “it’s been the best experience of my life!” She emphasized the impact that Nanny Angel childcare volunteers make in the lives of everyone in the family that they visit, saying that for students wanting to make a difference, volunteering with NAN is an experience like no other. “Get out there, see these families, and create long-lasting memories,” Faiza said. “If you’re not volunteering for it, advocate. Talk to your friends and family, spread the word about NAN and all that it offers. You never know who could need it and not realize that it’s there for them.”

Students wanting to volunteer with the Nanny Angel Network must be at least 18 years old, and have a minimum of one year’s previous professional childcare experience. This can include experience such as student placements, working as a camp counsellor, or nannying. To learn more, email volunteer@nannyangelnetwork.com, or complete your application today by visiting nanapply.com.

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

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

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

Angels & Heroes

After a week of the Nanny Angel Network team anxiously checking the weather reports and peering nervously up at the sky, Friday morning dawned bright and clear, and we collectively breathed a sigh of relief. Following a morning of checking and double checking that everything was ready for that evening, the NAN team headed out for our offices to the gorgeous Palais Royale on the lakefront. The perfectly sunny day set the lake alight, and the air was filled with the sounds of pedestrians out taking advantage of the beautiful day. In front of the doors was a stretch of brilliant pink carpet that drew the eye to the first sign of the event’s 60’s theme: an adorable retro Mercedes-Benz.

SON_4818As guests arrived, they were greeted by a crowd of paparazzi calling out in excitement. Guests grinned in delight as they posed for a souvenir photo. Doormen dressed in period garb ushered VIP guests to the back of the building, where the deck beside the lake awaited them. In the bright sunlight, and accompanied by the wonderful voice of Canadian singer/songwriter Kenny Munshaw, guests mingled and sipped on cocktails. Among them were adorably dressed retro cigarette girls selling angel wing necklaces and raffle tickets.

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Guests moved inside for dinner, reluctant to leave the sunshine behind. However, the inside of the venue was as perfect as the exterior, and everyone had soon happily found their seats. The evening’s emcee, Stefano DiMatteo introduced the guests to the Nanny Angel Network’s founder, Audrey Guth. She focused on the story of one of the evening’s attendees, Pawan Sharma, whose late wife Priyanka and her children had been the recipient of NAN’s services prior to her death. His two young daughters have continued to receive visits from Nanny Angels throughout the past year as they grieved the loss of their mother, and as their father struggled with the loss of his wife. Audrey spoke of how Priyanka inspired her. Tears filled her voice, and it was easy to spot others in the audience wiping at their eyes. The story of Pawan and his family is just one among many that NAN has helped in the GTA, something demonstrated by what Audrey next introduced, the 2016 NAN Impact Video.

After this video, you would have been hard pressed to find a dry eye in the crowd. Audrey took the stage again, thanking our title sponsors, Jeff and Diana Kerbel, longtime supporters of NAN whose impact upon mothers with cancer in the GTA is truly immeasurable. She thanked Paul Bailey of Bazil Developments, our Entertainment Sponsor, Barbara Weinberg of MLSE for all her hard work and passion for NAN, David and Jenni Belford of Surplus Freigh who, as a major sponsor, supplied the jet for Michael Feinstein et al. along with being an event sponsor. She also thanked OMDREB for their ongoing support of NAN, and all of our corporate sponsors who made the evening possible. She emphasized what an incredible impact donations to the Nanny Angel Network have – for every dollar that you donate to NAN, we are able to provide two dollars of specialized, in-home relief childcare to mothers with cancer.

Adam Moskowitz provided auctioneer services for the evening. The fast talking Adam got the crowd so excited they were quickly breaking the rules of a live auction, guests shouting out to draw attention to their bids. The prizes on offer were incredible thanks to the generosity of those who donated them, and the auction was a resounding success, raising over $35,000. One prize, a dinner for ten, was so successful that the donor offered a second one, which went for the same price of $10,000 each! After the excitement of the auction, the time had finally arrived for the evening’s headliner, and Michael Feinstein took the stage.

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The two-time Emmy and five-time Grammy nominated artist was accompanied by a nineteen piece Swing band, and captured the audience’s hearts with his beautiful renditions of Frank Sinatra. Clips from Michael’s performance can be found on the Nanny Angel Network Instagram page, as well as other behind the scenes images from the night.

Following Michael’s wonderful performance, the raffle was held to great excitement from the guests. Many lucky winners took home incredible prizes, including a private film screening of a theatrical release complete with popcorn and drinks for 40 guests from Warner Bros. Canada, and a trip to Nicaragua at a luxury resort.

Following remarks from co-chairs Joyce Frustaglio and Kendryn Hutt, the evening concluded. Guests were given a copy of the first edition of NAN’s Halo magazine as they headed out into the night, full of warmth and the joy of having helped support an amazing cause.

For more photographs from this wonderful evening, be sure to check out our image gallery.

To help support the Nanny Angel Network, please visit our donation page.

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Text: Jensine Jones      Photos: Nikki Leigh McKean

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

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