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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.

 

A Network of Angels

Dolce Magazine featured Audrey Guth, Founder of the Nanny Angel Network in their Fall 2018 issue. Audrey speaks about her experience with cancer and what inspired her to create the Nanny Angel Network.

When someone tells you that you have cancer, it is a huge shock. That’s what happened to Audrey Guth. “When I was diagnosed with cancer, it rocked my world,” she says. “You know, everyone feels somewhat omnipotent, and you think, ‘It’s not going to be me.’ And yet, it was me.”

Thank you to Dolce Magazine for raising awareness of NAN.

Read the article.

 

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.

Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

Ovarian cancer affects approximately 2,800 Canadians per year, and while all people with ovaries have some risk of developing ovarian cancer, there are several factors that can increase your risk. In honour of Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, Nanny Angel Network looks at some common risk factors, as well as what signs and symptoms you should look out for.

Epithelial ovarian cancer is the most common form of the three types of ovarian cancer, representing upwards of 90% of all cases of ovarian cancer. Epithelial ovarian cancer begins in the cells that cover the lining of the fallopian tube and the ovary, and it can be further divided into several, distinct sub-types: serious tumours (70% of cases), clear cell carcinoma (10-13% of cases), endometroid tumours, mucinous tumours (4% of cases), undifferentiated, and borderline ovarian tumours.

Germ cell ovarian cancer, which accounts for 5-10% of ovarian cancer cases, start from the cells from which eggs are formed (germ cells) and more often affects people in their 20s. Finally, sex cord stromal cell cancer represents less than 5% of all ovarian cancer diagnoses, and begins in the cells that hold the ovaries together, and is more likely to occur in people younger than 50. While the risk factors listed below are commonly known to increase the risk of epithelial ovarian cancer, the risk factors for the other types of ovarian cancer are less well known.

Risk for ovarian cancer increases if you have never given birth or have had difficulty conceiving, while it decreases if you have had gynecological surgery removing your fallopian tubes and/or ovaries. People with a history of endometriosis are also at a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer. Endometriosis is a painful disorder in which the endometrium – tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus – grows outside of the uterus. People who have used estrogen hormone replacement therapy, particular those who have used it in the long-term and/or in large doses, are also at a higher risk. People who have used oral contraceptives, however, have a lowered risk.

The risk of developing cancer increases with age, with ovarian cancer being more common in people with ovaries aged 50-79. The age at which a person began, and stopped, menstruation is also a factor, with ovarian cancer occurring more often in people who began menstruating before age 12 or underwent menopause after age 52. It is also more common in Jewish people of Ashkenazi descent, as well as French Canadians of certain ancestries. As with all cancers, risk also increases with a family history of cancer, in particular a history of ovarian, breast, endometrial, or colorectal cancer. It also increases if you are a smoker.

Genetic mutations, such as the BRCA gene mutation, can also increase risk factor – the BRCA gene mutation is also associated with an increased risk factor of developing breast cancer. BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutations are involved in most forms of hereditary ovarian and breast cancer. In addition to Ashkenazi Jewish people and French Canadians of certain ancestry, Icelandic and Dutch populations are also at an increased risk for having either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations.

Ovarian cancer can be difficult to detect, as there is no reliable screening test for this type of cancer. People experiencing symptoms of ovarian cancer should visit their doctor, who will perform a complete pelvic exam, a transvaginal or pelvic ultrasound, and a CA-125 blood test. Common symptoms of ovarian cancer include: increased abdominal size/persistent bloating, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, pain in the pelvic or abdominal areas, and a change both/either the urgency or frequency of urination. Other, less common symptoms, include changes in bowel habits, unexplained weight loss, and extreme fatigue. All of the symptoms of ovarian cancer are, unfortunately, often vague, and can be mistakenly attributed to other causes. However, if the symptoms are new, having started within the last year, persist more than three weeks, and occur frequently, it is important to see your doctor about them.

Once diagnosed, treatment for ovarian cancer can include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. For more information on ovarian cancer, including living with ovarian cancer, visit ovariancanada.org.

Sources: ovariancanada.org, mayoclinic.org, cancer.ca

Nanny Angel Michelle Donais

Meet Nanny Angel Michelle

Like the children she cares for, Michelle Donais has parents with cancer. She has witnessed firsthand just how painfully difficult it can be to deal with the illness and its treatments, along with day-to-day life, let alone caring for young children on top of it all.

Michelle has spent her life dedicating her free time to organizations benefiting children with cancer. She’s volunteered at summer camps for children with cancer, participated in fundraising events, and even plans to cycle Canada from coast to coast in order to raise awareness and funds for children with the disease. After learning about the Nanny Angel Network, Michelle submitted an application and was welcomed into the organization.

Michelle volunteers with a family that’s close to NAN’s heart. She looks after two young girls who recently lost their mother, Sherri. The parallels between their grief and Michelle’s own struggles as she cared for her own sick parents have brought her and the girls together.

“As Sherri’s cancer was progressing, I was also dealing with my own Mom’s cancer progression,” Michelle says. “I ended up moving back to my parent’s home for several months and wasn’t able to physically be with the girls because of the geography, so I arranged with their father to Skype with the girls as often as I could.”

“Their mother and my Mom shared many of the same symptoms and effects of the cancer and treatments, experiences in and out of the hospital, and their desire to be at home as their diseases advanced.” The similarities between their situations weren’t lost on the girls, either. They’d often ask Michelle questions about her own mother’s illness, which led to a dialogue about their feelings and concerns.

“They did ask me questions about my Mom and her illness, that I knew related to what Sherri was going through,” Michelle says. These questions included ‘Can your Mommy eat anything?’ (she had an NG tube, similar to their mother, and was able to eat very little), and ‘Where does she sleep?’ (in a hospital bed in the living room, also similar to their mother). “The training we were given from NAN helped me to answer them and also connect with them through our shared experiences,” Michelle says.

NAN used every resource possible to support Michelle and the family she cared for through the mother’s illness, treatment, and death. “The support from the NAN team has been tremendous. As Sherri’s disease progressed, the NAN team was incredible with providing us with various tools and resources to support the family,” Michelle says.

“Many years ago, I heard a quote that had a big impact on me: ‘No one can do anything about the quantity of life, but we all can do something about the quality.’ Being able to support Sherri during her illness, and provide her with much needed time for respite, while at the same time creating a fun environment for her kids, was meaningful and important to Sherri and her family. This has been a life changing experience for me, and I know that volunteering as a Nanny Angel has created a meaningful difference, not only for this family but also for myself. I’ve created a special bond with this family that I hope will last a lifetime.”

Volunteer Michelle with one of her NAN children, Hanora

Michelle with one of her NAN children, Hanora

Meet the Donors: Jeff & Diana Kerbel | Brampton Brick

“If you can do it, you’ve got to do it.” That’s the mentality that sets Diana and Jeff Kerbel apart and has made them two of the Nanny Angel Network’s most dedicated supporters. “We have been fortunate, and want to make sure that others can feel the same,” Diana says. Diana and her husband, Jeff, President and CEO of Brampton Brick, have given the Nanny Angel Network a new understanding of the word philanthropy through their generous contributions to the organization. In 2015, Brampton Brick donated $100,000 to NAN – the largest amount the organization has ever received from one donor.

Brampton Brick’s support is critical to NAN’s expansion across the GTA. “Jeff and Diana Kerbel are truly Guardian Angels of our organization. Their investment in the Nanny Angel Network is changing the way moms and their children endure the stress of a cancer diagnosis,” says NAN Founder, Audrey Guth.

If you ask Diana and Jeff about why they chose NAN, they’re quick to answer. “My mother had cancer and I saw what it cost for her care. I can’t imagine how young families do it. There are people there for palliative care and other services, but no one else is out there looking after the families,” says Jeff. The Kerbels emphasized the importance of organizations like NAN in their community and stressed their ongoing commitment to support the growth and success of the Nanny Angel Network.

After volunteering on the Angels & Heroes Event Committee for the inaugural gala, Diana joined NAN again in 2017 as a Co-Chair. “I had been to so many charity events over the years and part of so many committees, I wasn’t looking to do any more, but Audrey kept pursuing me. She would not let me go,” says Diana, laughing as she recalls Audrey reaching out. “It’s been a rewarding experience.”

When asked what they would want to share with people who are just learning about NAN, Jeff answered. “NAN is a great organization. I would love to see people make space for NAN in their giving.” Their interest in sharing NAN with their community has been monumental for NAN’s growth and development. At the inaugural Angels & Heroes Celebration, Diana and Jeff Kerbel were recognized for their outstanding contributions to the organization.

First Annual Angel Prom

Join us for the first annual Angel Prom; an evening brought to you by the Nanny Angel Network (NAN), Avid Apparel, and Collectif NUDE at the newly renovated Broadview Hotel.

Angel Prom is your chance to support mothers in need, all while experiencing a night to remember. Guests will be treated to an evening of cocktails, live musical performances, and exciting raffle prizes you won’t want to miss! All proceeds from the Angel Prom go directly to NAN.

Musical lineup to be announced soon | 19+

September 17, 2017 | 8:00 PM | 106 Broadview Ave, Toronto ON

RSVP on FacebookPurchase tickets

Nanny Angel Network, Avid Apparel, and Collectif NUDE would like to thank all of our amazing sponsors for their help in making the Angel Prom such a wonderful event!

Air Transat | Ascari Enoteca | Balloon Trix | BSIDE Beauty |  Celebrity Limousine
Eastbound Brewing Company | Elevate | Garden’s Path Floral Design | Honda Canada Inc.
Hudson’s Bay Company | KIND Snacks | Kwiksitter | MLSE | Nine West
Poppys Collection | Red Bull | Sapporo


Top 5 Ways to Stay Safe in the Sun

In the warm summer months, it’s hard to resist the urge to spend time in the sun soaking up the warmth – especially with how long our winters are in Canada! However, before you slip on the flip-flops and head to the beach, there’s some important steps to take to reduce your risk of developing melanoma (skin cancer). Nanny Angel Network shares our top 5 tips to stay sun safe and protect your skin!

  1. Stay in the shade when possible, whether this means under a beach umbrella or a tree – the best shade protects from above and from the sides, such as a gazebo!
  2. Wear protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts and long pants, skirts, or maxi dresses made from tightly-woven fabrics, such as polyester. You can also find specially made UV-protective clothing that block both UVA and UVB rays. The most important thing is to limit how much skin is being exposed to the sunlight!
  3. Wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your neck, head, and face. The brim should go around the entire hat to ensure that you are completely protected!
  4. Apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen to all exposed skin. A minimum SPF of 30 is recommended by doctors. Make sure you check the bottle for directions on when to reapply! The skin of your lips is also susceptible to burns – lip balm with a minimum SPF of 30 should be applied to protect your lips.
  5. Wear good quality sunglasses with 99% or 100% UVA and UVB absorption. The best sunglasses have frames that fit close to the face and are wraparound, protecting the eyes from exposure to sunlight from the sides. These are especially important to help reduce the risk of ocular melanoma!

The sun’s rays are strongest between 11am and 4pm, making it even more important to follow these tips during those hours. You should also make sure you are drinking lots of cool liquids if you’re spending a lot of time in the sun and heat – even if you don’t yet feel thirsty!

While most people spend far more time outside during the summer, it is important to remember these tips in the winter, and even when it isn’t sunny. Sunlight reflects off of clouds, potentially causing damage to skin even on cloudy days. Snow has a similar effect in the winter – you’ve probably seen someone come back from a ski trip with goggle tan (a bonus tip for skiers: check your googles for their UV protection rating before hitting the slopes!). Keep wearing sunscreen and sunglasses all year round, have fun, and stay safe!

Read more on the Cancer Care Ontario website

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