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A cancer diagnosis is crushing news for anyone to receive, but it felt particularly cruel to Lily Zhou. In 2014 her son was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and Lily did what any mother would do. She took a leave from her job as an accountant, and devoted her life to her son’s care. But just one year after returning to work in 2016, Lily felt a lump and knew, with dread, what lay ahead of her.

Anxiously awaiting test results gave way to lumpectomy surgery and rounds of chemotherapy, but the physical challenges Lily faced were outweighed by the emotional journey she struggled with. Lily had always felt healthy before her diagnosis, but suddenly she faced a life threatening illness, and the weight of that knowledge was consuming.

Overshadowing everything was Lily’s concern over how she would share this with her children, and how it would impact their lives. As this was happening, Lily’s son had received treatment for his cancer at Sick Kids and he was in remission. Lily began her own treatment, and while her husband was very supportive, and they received some extra help from their church, she continued to worry about her sons. When she finally shared the news of her diagnosis, she’d tried to keep it vague, she didn’t want to cause them any undue stress. Children are incredibly observant though, and before long Lily’s sons were asking why their mother was home from work so much, and when she began to lose her hair, it was impossible to hide the seriousness of her illness. She assured her sons she’d be OK once her treatment was finished, and did everything she could to maintain the happy, normal life she’d created for her sons.

Part of preserving her children’s little bubble meant acknowledging that she couldn’t be the busy, active mom she’d always been, and that a little more help at home might be beneficial not only for the boys, but for her own recovery as well. Through the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, Lily learned about the Nanny Angel Network, and her family began receiving visits from their Nanny Angel.

The worry never goes away for Lily, but when the Nanny Angel arrives at her door, she knows her sons have the chance to just be kids for a few hours, and she has the chance to give her body the rest she so badly needs.

A Mom’s Journey Through Cancer and Care

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