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Virtual Visits During COVID-19

As the situation around COVID-19 continues to evolve, we want to make sure our NAN families and volunteers stay safe and practice social distancing. We also know that the weekly visit from a Nanny Angel can make all the difference to a mom with cancer and to her children and so we encourage our volunteers and families to continue their visits during COVID-19 by meeting virtually, either by phone or video conferencing.

This time is yours! Please use it however you feel is best, but if you’re a little stumped on how to have a virtual visit, our Child Life Specialist has come up with a few suggestions to get you started. Keep checking back for new Skypetivities!

1. Story Time
Want to test the waters with a virtual visit? Consider reading a book together! This is great for all ages and can be done over the phone or through any video conferencing app. You can take it a step further by creating your own stories together or pre-recording yourself reading a story for the kids to access offline. Reading aloud to children has been shown to improve reading, writing, communication skills, logical thinking, concentration and general academic aptitude, as well as inspire a lifelong love of reading. You can access free online books for children of all ages by visiting Oxford Owl, Amazon Kindle and Scholastic Online.

2. Guessing Games
Try playing a guessing game together. This is an amazing interactive way to virtually occupy the kids and provide our moms with a chance to rest and recover. You could do this by acting out or drawing an animal or action over a video call. You could also describe a person, place or thing over a phone call. Want to make it even more fun? Get creative by using props from around the house or trying out different voice accents.

3. Play I Spy
I SPY with my little eye is an entertaining and interactive activity to enjoy with your NAN families virtually through video conferencing. Put on your binoculars and begin this mystery game to beat the boredom blues. Your background is your playing field. Try moving into different rooms to change the background and keep it entertaining. Use colours, shapes or riddles as clues. If you don’t have video, encourage the children to describe what they ‘spy’ around them and guess what they see or where they are in the house.

4. Virtual Jam Session
Do you and your NAN kids love music? Think about hosting a virtual jam session with your NAN family. This is an innovative way to engage the kids and continue to provide support to your NAN family as we practice social distancing. Try these tips to make the most of your jam session:

  • Use the instruments you have, or items found around the house to make music together
  • Try different rhythms and beats. Play fast, and then slow. Play something that makes you want to dance, or something to keep you calm
  • Don’t have access to any instruments? Use your voice and have a sing-a-long to your favourite songs
  • Prefer to move to the music rather than make it? Why not have a dance party!
  • Are your NAN kids a little bit shy? Talk about your favourite music, bands or concerts you’ve been to. Play your favourite songs for each other. Or simply stay on the line, listen and enjoy the sounds of music together, yet apart

5. Virtual Tea Party
Feeling a bit parched? Have a virtual tea party! It’s a fun and engaging way to interact with the kids while practicing social distancing. It is time to get this par-TEA started! Right?

  • Think about who will be invited to your tea party? For young children, encourage them to bring their favourite dolls or stuffies
  • Where is your tea party happening? Are you in a café in Paris or in Alice’s Wonderland? Let your imagination run wild
  • Have your NAN kids grown out of the imaginative play stage? Turn your tea date into a game. Play two truths and a lie. Tell two things about yourself that are true, and one that is a lie. Guess which one is the lie. If you get it right, you take a sip of your tea. If you get it wrong, the other person take a sip. The goal is to try to finish your tea/hot chocolate/warm milk before it gets cold!
  • Not into playing games? Your tea date is an awesome time to connect. Use this time to check-in, see how they are doing and learn about their week. It can be helpful to have a few things to share too. Make it a re-occurring date to keep in touch with your NAN kids from a distance

6. At Home Scavenger Hunt
Want a fun activity to entertain the kids with on your virtual visits? Try hosting a scavenger hunt! This is an amazing way to beat the boredom blues and add an interesting twist to their day. To make your quest a bit easier, pick a theme for your hunt like the ABCs or “things you use on a rainy day.” Go around the house together searching for those items. If you are working on the Letter B, maybe you’ll go into the kitchen to find the Bread or go into the bathroom to find the bathtub.See how many things you can find! The scavenger hunt activity will work better on a tablet or a phone rather than a computer so keep this is mind when planning your activities with your NAN kids.

Do you have some great ideas that Nanny Angels can do during a virtual visit? Please let us know by emailing marketing@nannyangelnetwork.com

Nanny Angel Network the grand prize winner of Astellas Oncology 2019 C3 Prize® to Improve Cancer Care

Astellas Pharma US, Inc. (“Astellas”) today announced it has awarded $200,000 in total grants and resources to winners of the fourth annual C3 (Changing Cancer Care) Prize, a challenge that funds the best ideas beyond medicine to improve cancer care for patients, caregivers and their loved ones. Audrey Guth, founder of Nanny Angel Network in Toronto, Canada, was chosen as the 2019 Grand Prize winner.

With the funds from the C3 Prize, Guth intends to expand the reach and impact of Nanny Angel Network, which trains volunteers to care for children whose mothers have cancer. Guth, a cancer survivor and mother of four, established the Nanny Angel Network in 2009 after she found a gap in healthcare and social services for mothers with cancer and their children. The program provides stability, normalcy, and support during a challenging time.

“Moms, particularly in underserved populations, are often forced to choose between caring for their children and going for treatment, and such a serious diagnosis can leave kids feeling sad, scared and anxious,” Guth said. “I am grateful for the opportunity to expand the reach and impact of Nanny Angel Network as we seek to ease the burden of living with cancer for families.”

Leah Werry represents Nanny Angel Network at the Astellas Oncology C3 Prize finals

Three finalists pitched their ideas to a panel of judges, including celebrity entrepreneur and cancer activist Bill Rancic and other leaders in innovation, healthcare and business, during a live pitch event in New York on October 25, 2019. Leah Werry, Kingston Champion of Nanny Angel Network, pitched on Guth’s behalf.

“As the husband of a cancer survivor, a father and a businessman, it is an honor to help select the winning idea and put a spotlight on life-changing cancer care solutions,” Rancic said. “This winning idea is putting the focus on families and providing critical stability for families throughout the ups and downs of a cancer journey.”

This year’s challenge awarded four prizes totaling $200,000 in funds (one Grand Prize of $100,000, two $45,000 Innovation Prizes, and one Emerging Ideas Prize of $10,000). Along with the funding, all winners will have the opportunity to attend TEDMED 2020 as TEDMED Scholars, joining a unique, multidisciplinary community of leading thinkers and doers from across the landscape of health, medicine, and scientific innovation. The winners also will receive a yearlong complimentary membership to MATTER, a global healthcare startup incubator, community nexus and corporate innovation accelerator.

The 2019 Innovation Prize winners are:

  • Daniella Koren of New York, New York, USA, founder of Arches Technology, whose idea is to expand a digital patient education and engagement program called MyCareCompass that provides relevant information and evidence-based education to people impacted by cancer throughout their treatment journey.
  • Leslie Schover of Houston, Texas, USA, founder of Will2Love, whose idea is to tailor self-help programs for men and women to meet the needs of special populations including younger survivors and LGBTQ survivors. Will2Love provides online education and expert guidance to help people impacted by cancer overcome problems with sexual health and fertility, trains oncology professionals to better manage these problems, and consults to hospitals to set up reproductive health programs.

This year, Astellas introduced a new Emerging Ideas Prize to recognize ideas that need additional cultivation before implementation. Abby Westerman of b-present Foundation was selected for this prize and also presented at the live pitch event. Westerman plans to use the Emerging Ideas Prize to extend the reach of b-there, a web-based patient and supporter connection tool to lower the barrier for young adults with cancer to stay connected with friends, offering a quick, easy, low-stress way to control visits, convey status updates, and request needed items.

“Astellas is extremely proud to help advance the inspiring ideas from this year’s winners, who are actively working to transform what it means to live with a cancer diagnosis, and improve the patient experience throughout the cancer journey,” said Mark Reisenauer, senior vice president, Oncology Business Unit at Astellas.

For more information, visit www.C3Prize.com.

About the Astellas Oncology C3 Prize
The Astellas Oncology C3 Prize, launched in 2016, is a global challenge that aims to address the complexities of the cancer journey by funding the best ideas in cancer care beyond medicine. The C3 Prize sparks innovative developments in cancer care, tackling cancer challenges by awarding the winners with prize money and connecting them with resources and support. The C3 Prize directly reflects the mission of Astellas Oncology: striving to make every day better for those impacted by cancer. Astellas maintains no ownership in the ventures funded by the C3 Prize. For more information, visit the website at https://www.C3Prize.com.

About Astellas
Astellas is a pharmaceutical company dedicated to improving the health of people around the world through the provision of innovative and reliable pharmaceutical products. For more information on Astellas, please visit our website at http://www.astellas.us. You can also follow us on Twitter at @AstellasUS, Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/AstellasUS or LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/company/astellas-pharma.

TEDMED is the independent health and medicine edition of the world-famous TED conference and TED Talks, dedicated to “ideas worth spreading.” TEDMED bridges the gap between science and the public by finding and sharing stories that inform, inspire, engage, and provoke action across a broad, passionate community both inside and outside of health and medicine. Best known for their annual event, TEDMED is a year-round global community. TEDMED is a 501(c)(3) Public Charity.

MATTER is a global healthcare startup incubator, community nexus and corporate innovation accelerator. MATTER mobilizes a community of entrepreneurs, industry innovators, scientists and clinicians committed to improving health and care for every patient.

SOURCE Astellas Pharma US, Inc.

Nanny Angel Network heads to New York City as a finalist for the Astellas Oncology C3 grand prize

(TORONTO, ON – October 9, 2019) – Astellas Pharma US announced the three finalists for its fourth annual C3 (Changing Cancer Care) Prize, a challenge that funds the best ideas beyond medicine to improve cancer care for patients, caregivers and their loved ones.

Nanny Angel Network is thrilled to announce that we have been selected as one of only three finalists for this prestigious award. We are the only Canadian organization selected as a finalist to compete in the final event.

The three grand prize finalists, including NAN, will pitch their ideas to a panel of judges on October 25 during a live event in New York City. NAN’s Kingston Champion Leah Werry will travel to NYC to represent us at the C3 Prize-partner TEDMED event.  

The Astellas Oncology C3 Prize launched in 2016 as a global challenge that aims to address the complexities of the cancer journey by funding the best ideas in cancer care beyond medicine. Nanny Angel Network is proud to be recognized for our existing work to fill the gaps in health and social care and should we win, the Astellas C3 Prize funding will help us in our goal to lessen the impact of cancer on families across Canada and beyond.

More details on how to watch the C3 Prize TEDMED presentation will be shared as we learn them. Please visit www.c3prize.com to learn more about this award.

A Mom’s Journey Through Cancer and Care

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

Celebrating National Volunteer Week with NAN

Volunteer week celebration with our Nanny Angels
Celebrating with our Nanny Angels

Written by Rebecca Mangra

On Friday, April 12, at Toronto’s Piano Piano restaurant, the Nanny Angel Network (NAN) celebrated the most vital ingredient for NAN’s success: our volunteers. The dinner capped off National Volunteer Week, an annual celebration of volunteers and their positive impact on communities from all across Canada.

The evening provided an opportunity for volunteers to relax, dine and get to know one another. Amongst mouthfuls of mushroom cavatelli and Nutella tiramisu, there were rich conversations about the best way to make a homemade pizza and the subtle charm that Play-Doh has over children. The dinner strengthened a community of hardworking volunteers who all take time out of their busy schedules to help children understand and cope with their mother’s cancer.

“You are the heart of NAN. As my husband says, it is easy to write a cheque, but you do the heavy lifting. Words cannot express how grateful I am for the work that you do,” gushed Audrey Guth, NAN’s founder, in a heartfelt speech.

Awards were also given out to a few special volunteers. The Legacy Award is presented to a longstanding Nanny Angel who has provided outstanding service to NAN. This year’s recipient, Andrea, has put in over 681 hours of her time since she started in 2013 and volunteered with over thirteen families. The Extra Mile Award is given to a volunteer who has gone above and beyond the duty of a Nanny Angel. The award was presented to two volunteers: Jayda and Cecile. Jayda has a strong connection to her community and brought a lot of families to NAN. Cecile, despite being a newcomer, has already donated 150 hours as a Nanny Angel.

The night was a successful celebration of how far NAN has come and the volunteers who continue to make the organization a solace for mothers with cancer. We hope to organize more events for our volunteers in the future. If you’d like to volunteer with NAN, please visit www.nannyangelnetwork.com/get-involved/.

Deanna’s Story

A Story about two boys and their Nanny Angel

Deanna with Sawyer and Fisher

Every week, Deanna Smith thoughtfully planned her visit to the home of two boys aged 11 and 6. She carefully considered the types of activities that each boy enjoys. One week, she brought cupcakes to be decorated because Fisher’s birthday was just a few days prior, and birdhouses to be painted because Sawyer loved arts and crafts projects. 

Sawyer and Fisher’s mom died of colon cancer and Deanna was there to see them through the toughest time of their lives.

“I liked being able to have fun with the children knowing that they were also enjoying the time we spent together,” says Deanna. “Most importantly, I enjoyed knowing that my visits made a difference in the family’s life,” she adds.

Deanna is one of many Nanny Angel Network volunteers who provide relief childcare for moms with cancer. Sadly, the boys’ mother succumbed to cancer a few weeks after Deanna began visiting the family. Through our program, Deanna continued to visit the family and provided relief childcare for Dad. 

“I developed a great relationship with the boys’ Dad and he enjoyed participating in many activities each week.  Sometimes he took the opportunity to do other things in the house when I visit,”says Deanna. . 

“After the boys’ mom passed, we used to talk about some of the special memories the children had of her during our visits,” said Deanna. “We created a memory box with special items and photos inside as ways to remind the boys of how much their mom loved them,” adds Deanna. 

Our Nanny Angels focus on supporting children through the challenges that come with the loss of a healthy mom, regardless of whether or not their mom recovers. The aim of each visit revolves around activities and conversations that will positively impact the children’s emotional and psychological development and lessen the impact of their mom’s cancer in their lives.         

“It’s fulfilling to be able to offer support, hope and encouragement when families need it the most,” says Deanna proudly. 

A Mom’s Story: Sameera

Written by Rebecca Mangra

“My life revolves around my daughter. I thought, ‘What’s next for her?’”

In a cream blazer over a red turtleneck, NAN mom Sameera greets us warmly into her apartment. She is not afraid to get right into our reason for being there. “I have to say what I observe. I have to tell my story,” she assures us.

Sameera is currently facing breast cancer while raising her eight-year-old daughter. After her diagnosis, she had a mastectomy. Her husband, who lives in India, visited on multiple occasions to give her support. But before her journey with cancer started, Sameera was a working mom and described her life then as a healthy one: no fast food and lots of exercise.

“Cancer doesn’t care who you are,” she tells us matter-of-factly.

Sameera describes herself as a modern and empowered woman. When you meet her, it is not hard to agree: she offers a confident handshake and a bright smile to each of the members of our team. She dotes on her daughter throughout the interview and towards the end, offers us all slices of maple cake. You would never believe that her cancer diagnosis left her numb for the first two months—and even then, the only thing that came to mind was her daughter. “My life revolves around my daughter. I thought, ‘What’s next for her?’”

The Nanny Angel Network (NAN) made a huge impact on her life by giving her the tools to explain what she was going through to her daughter. At first, she was scared to open up about her illness, but finally found the courage to do so after her surgery. “NAN opened my mind and empowered me to open up about my issues. They helped me to see that my daughter has to face the world and she needs the right information to do so.”

Her Nanny Angel, Lani, also alleviated a large amount of Sameera’s stress. Her daughter tells us that Lani offered her a chance to be joyful amid the chaos of her mother’s cancer diagnosis. She explains, “Lani is more of a friend. She’s someone I can play games or watch movies with.”

Finally, Sameera offers some firm advice for mothers dealing with cancer: “Nothing is more important than building your confidence to face the world. Make yourself so strong that your disease cannot control you.”

Sameera and our Child Life Specialist, Cassie.

Talking to Your Children About Cancer

Having conversations with children about cancer are never easy. That’s why for some families, cancer becomes the elephant in the room. Some parents choose not to speak about their diagnosis because they are concerned that these conversations will have a negative impact on their children. However, research shows that children who are given honest information in age appropriate language do much better in the long run. Children who are not given truthful information about a parent’s illness often experience anxiety, trust issues and behavioural problems can surface in adolescence and adulthood.

There are four common things that children often worry about when their mom has cancer.  Did I cause it? Can I catch it? Can I cure it? Who is going to take care of me if mom dies? These simple questions can easily be answered but they require open dialogue with the child and a sense of trust and security. Remember, it’s alright not to have all of the answers to the questions your children pose to you. They will understand.

Below is some information you should consider when deciding how to discuss your diagnosis with your children.

Children Ages 2 and under:

  • Are attune to changes in their routine and separation from their mother.
  • May not grasp the details of the illness however, the earlier they are able to name it as cancer, the better equipped they will be throughout your treatment and recovery.

If you are recovering from surgery or have limited mobility because of treatments, maintain proximity to your child so that he or she can still hear your voice so that you can reassure them.

Children Ages 3-5:

  • Have a basic understanding of what it means to be sick but may not understand what cancer is.
  • They often imagine the worst if they are not given an opportunity to talk about their feelings.

It is important to explain what cancer is in simple terms and assure the child that they didn’t do anything to cause it.

Children Ages 6-12:

  • Can understand more complex explanations of cancer.
  • They often believe what other children tell them. So, it is important to answer their questions truthfully to prevent misinformation.

It is important to reassure them that cancer is not contagious.

Children Ages 13-18:

  • Are beginning to think and act like adults and will understand more complexities about your diagnosis.
  • They may become angry, anxious, rebellious, or insecure. So, it is important to encourage your child to be open about their feelings.

Let them know that it is okay for them to be happy or have fun throughout your treatment. This will help maintain consistency and keep them engaged in activities they enjoy.

At the Nanny Angel Network (NAN) we have developed resources to help parents have conversations about cancer with their children of all ages. In addition, our Nanny Angels follow the parents’ lead when it comes to what they share with children and what language they use.  Our Nanny Angels are always prepared to openly and honestly communicate with the children they care for, creating safe spaces where children feel comfortable opening up and discussing their emotions and ask difficult questions. This in turn allows us to positively impact the long-term emotional and psychological development of these children.

If you are currently receiving service from NAN and would like to speak with your children about cancer, and you are not sure where to begin, please speak with your Nanny Angel. They will be able to help you.