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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.

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.