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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

Blogging with Cancer

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Blogging is becoming a growing hobby or past-time of many people, regardless of age, interests, and experiences. With studies showing that there are positive social effects to blogging, and in blogging about an illness specifically, the team at the Nanny Angel Network was curious about the experience of mothers who blog during their cancer treatment. Is there a community? Does it provide mothers with cancer another form of social support? With these questions in mind, NAN talked to Renee Kaiman, a blogger at My So-Called Mommy Life. Renee is a blogger, a mother, and a cancer survivor, and has benefited from the Nanny Angel Network over the past year.

Renee began blogging long before she received her diagnosis of breast cancer. In fact, she first began blogging to share her experiences as a mother. “I started blogging when my daughter was 9 months old,” Renee told NAN, explaining that all the research that she did while pregnant led to her becoming the person that her friends turned to with their questions. “A few people suggested I start a blog,” Renee said, adding “I’m so glad I did!” After her cancer diagnosis, Renee made the conscious decision not to change the way she blogged because of the cancer. “My blogging changed in that my blog now includes posts about my treatment as well as life with and after cancer,” she explained, but at the same time, she made an effort to give her readers “the same blog that I did before I was diagnosed.”

Making the decision to disclose her diagnosis to her audience wasn’t an easy one for Renee. “I wasn’t quite sure how I would disclose my diagnosis to anyone,” Renee said. “My closest family and friends knew but I sat on how I would tell everyone else for a while.” Eventually, she made the decision to share her diagnosis on her blog in the hopes that everyone she knew would read it. “I wanted my news to come from me. I didn’t want it to be a broken telephone type situation or one that included whispers,” Renee explained. “I think it also was the right thing to do because I was young, only 33, and pretty much the first person in my social circles to receive this diagnosis.” On the 1st of April, 2015, while sitting in the waiting room for her first round of chemotherapy, a post called ‘When life hands you cancer’ went live on Renee’s blog.

Renee had another reason for wanting to share her diagnosis with her blogging audience. “I decided to share my experience to show that although cancer is scary it can happen to anyone,” Renee said, “I’ve shared a lot of personal experiences about cancer, and I have been contacted by many other young mothers with breast cancer who have read my blog and could relate to my words.” When she was first diagnosed, Renee attempted to find other young woman bloggers with cancer diagnoses, but didn’t have much luck. “I hope that other young woman will find the solace that I was looking for,” Renee said, emphasizing how much it means to her when woman with cancer reading her blog do reach out to her. “It reminds me that what I’m doing is helpful to others moms,” she said.

“Even though I was surrounded by so many supportive people, you don’t often sit down and discuss your fears. My blog has given me an outlet to share my deepest feelings with those who know me and those who don’t.”

Renee believes that her blog and Instagram both played significant roles in changing her experience of cancer. “The support I have received has been amazing and so many fellow bloggers have been so incredibly supportive of me,” Renee stated. “It gave me an outlet to share how I felt. Whether it was sharing my initial diagnosis, to the night before my double mastectomy, I was able to share and let people know how I was feeling,” Renee said, adding that it made her feel supported through the most difficult parts of her cancer treatment. “I always received amazing feedback which let me know I was doing the right thing.”

There was a final reason for Renee to continue blogging through her cancer treatment, and her choice to openly discuss her cancer treatment on her blog. “Part of me also blogged during my treatment so that if anything should ever happen to me…  my kids [would] know from my words how I really felt during this whole thing,” Renee said. Overall, she hopes the message people get from her blog is a positive one. “I’m a mom like most of my readers who got a shitty diagnosis,” Renee explains. “Instead of letting it ruin my life, I decided to face it head on and not let it dictate my life. Cancer will always be a part of who I am now, but it isn’t all that I am.”

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Renee Kaiman has been blogging at My So-Called Mommy Life since 2012. The 35-year-old mother of two is a breast cancer survivor, and a recent graduate from NAN’s Nanny Angels program. You can find her online at her blog, twitter, and Instagram.

Text: Jensine Jones      Photos: Nanny Angel Network
Sources: Journal of Health CommunicationCommunication ResearchHealth Blogging

Volunteering in Retirement

Choosing to volunteer your time in retirement comes with a host of benefits. From providing a transition from working life to retired life, to giving you a sense of purpose, to connecting you to a network of other volunteers, there are many ways in which volunteering as a retiree can improve your life. There are even health benefits – former director of the Centre on Aging at the University of Victoria, Neena Chappell, reports that retirees who volunteer, “especially if it involves helping others, are happier and healthier in their later years.”

Dianne Levy is a retired teacher who has been volunteering with the Nanny Angel Network since early 2015. She says that she decided to begin volunteering because she “wanted to help others and give back to the community.” When asked why she choose NAN over other organizations, Dianne replied that she picked NAN because she could see the need for the Nanny Angel Network in the community, and was impressed by Audrey, the founder of the organization. She added that Angel’s make an incredible difference in the lives of families going through cancer treatment and recovery.

Dianne has been volunteering almost as long as she has been retired, giving her a firm grasp on what volunteering in retirement is like. “If you have the time and you want to give back and enjoy the feeling of giving, do it,” Dianne said when asked what she would say to someone who is about to retire and is thinking about volunteering. “There is no better feeling than to be needed and appreciated.” Dianne also emphasized that choosing an organization that is a good fit for you is important when deciding whether or not to volunteer in retirement. “To be an Angel you have to be a certain type of individual,” she said. “Not everyone I know would be suited to this type of volunteer position.” Of course, the Nanny Angel Network has plenty of volunteer positions beyond Nanny Angels, including providing help in the office as well as roles around fundraising.

We also asked Dianne if she had a favourite story from her time volunteering with NAN that she’d like to share, and she was happy to tell us all about the kids she works with.

One story makes me laugh. We go to the park when the weather is conducive for playing outdoors. The two children I work with are 6 and 3. We play pretend. In their eyes, I am a kid, not a grandmother. They asked me to climb the monkey bars.  I am a Princess, a Queen, a fireman, and a witch. Their imaginations are endless. Little are they aware that my joints are not what they used to be. In their minds, they think I am a youngster with unlimited energy and dexterity. It makes me laugh because in a few years, I will be an old lady to them, but now, I am just a kid.

Dianne told NAN that volunteering has really taught her a lot, including patience and understanding. “It has brought out my imagination. Volunteering has channeled the child in me. I have become a better person. I have learned to be grateful and to cherish ALL moments.” When asked if she had any last comments, Dianne emphasized again how important she sees the work that NAN does. “I think the Nanny Angel Network is truly amazing,” she says, adding, “I just wish more people were aware of this agency because there is such a great need for this service.”

The Nanny Angel Network is always looking for new Nanny Angels to join our team of dedicated volunteers! To become a Nanny Angel, you must have one year of recent professional childcare experience, which can include being a professional nanny, nursing, teaching, social work, or a student currently enrolled in programs for careers involving childcare. You must also be a legal resident of Canada, physically and mentally fit to provide unsupervised care for children, a minimum of 18 years of age, have a clear vulnerable sector police check (which can be arranged through NAN)), current CPR and First Aid training (also can be arranged through NAN), and two references related to childcare experience. The Nanny Angel Network also provides specialized training for all of our volunteers, which includes a seminar on Grief and Loss with Andrea Warnick.

If you’d like to become a Nanny Angel with NAN, fill out our online application!

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Dianne Levy photographed by Omar Duragos


Text: Jensine Jones       Sources: theglobeandmail.com

Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon

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Are you looking to reach a personal fitness goal in 2016? Or perhaps looking for a family-friendly race to get your kids active and giving back?

NAN is excited to announce that it is one of the charities that you can fundraise for as a participant of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon! On October 16, tens of thousands of people will take to Toronto’s streets to participate in the annual 5k, half marathon, and full marathon races.

For the first time ever, NAN will be putting together a team of runners, with fundraising dollars going directly to supporting our Nanny Angels and mothers through our programming.

“We are so excited to launch this new opportunity. The run is a fun and family-friendly way to get involved and support the tremendous efforts of our Nanny Angel volunteers,” says NAN Founder, Audrey Guth. While this is a new program for NAN, it is our goal to raise $7,000 with the help of our supporters.

No matter your age, or if you like to run or walk, all are welcome to join us! As a member of our team, you will benefit from a special edition NAN t-shirt, fundraising support and assistance, as well as a special invitation to a pre-race dinner where you will meet our Founder and hear from the people who can speak to the benefit of your support – our moms.

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Text: Rebecca Babcock            Photos: Nanny Angel Network

In Sickness

In Sickness

Supporting someone you love when they’ve been diagnosed with cancer is difficult. Worrying about saying the wrong thing, their emotional state, and what will happen to your relationship all factor into your interactions with them from the moment they tell you about their diagnosis. It is inevitable that you may say or do something that negatively impacts your loved one with cancer. Depending on their personality and your relationship, they may not tell you when you do something wrong.

Luckily, other cancer patients don’t have that problem! There is a wealth of online articles discussing the do’s and don’ts of interacting with your loved one who is sick, which can be overwhelming. However, there are several points that come up again and again when discussing how best to be there for your loved one with cancer. We have collected the most essential pieces together in this list of how to best be there for your loved one:

Do: take your cues from them. If they don’t want to talk about it, don’t push them into a conversation they aren’t prepared for or don’t want to have. Asking someone to share details about their treatment and what is happening to their body is intensely personal.

Don’t: share your cancer story. Telling someone who has been diagnosed with cancer about how your mother-in-law died of cancer is not helpful… and might send the wrong message about what you think their chances of survival are.

Do: let them know you care, that you will be there for them, and that you will support them in whatever capacity they need… even if that doesn’t match what you think they need.

Don’t: ask how they are. People with cancer are constantly inundated with questions about their health, their disease, their state of mind… and it is exhausting. Let them know that you’re there for them if they want to talk, but don’t push.

Do: include them in normal social events, but also be understanding if they have to cancel or decline.

Don’t: try to be empathetic by saying you understand how they feel. Sympathize, but don’t compare your experiences and feelings to theirs if you have never had cancer. Phrases such as “I can’t imagine how you feel” are far more meaningful, and real, than “I know exactly how you feel”.

Do: listen without adding your own input. This can be challenging, but can also be so meaningful to someone who is sick.

Don’t: recommend a miracle cure you found on the internet. Just… don’t.

Do: avoid platitudes such as “everything happens for a reason” and “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” that don’t mean much… and that they’re constantly hearing from everyone else in their life.

Don’t: tell them to stay positive, or any other message that tells the cancer patient to regulate their outward displays of their emotions. “Stay positive”, “you’re so strong”, and “you’re so brave” all communicate to cancer patients that they can’t reveal their real moods to you without judgement, that they can’t display any weakness, and that they are at fault for their own illness because they weren’t upbeat enough.

Do: respect their decisions when it comes to their treatment and their health.

All of this advice boils down to one simple principle: this is not about you, but the person with cancer. This idea is encapsulated by the Ring Theory, developed by Susan Silk, a clinical psychologist, when she had breast cancer. It uses rings in a circle to designate proximity to a trauma, with the person experiencing the trauma (in this case, cancer) in the very centre. The person in the centre ring can say whatever they want about their trauma. So can everyone else – but only to people in the larger rings. When talking to someone in a smaller ring than yours, the goal is to help, to listen and provide comfort and support.

Ultimately, this is the most important thing you can do for someone with cancer. Mistakes in language, phrasing, and terminology are inevitable and understandable, and very much forgiveable. Being mindful of the impact your words can have, listening carefully to what your loved one is saying, and being there for them throughout their treatment is the most important thing you can do for your loved one with cancer.

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Sources: cancer.org | cancer.ca | caring.com | abc.net.au | latimes.com
Text: Jensine Jones            Photos: emilymcdowell.com