Curl Keeper teamed up with the Nanny Angel Network, an organization that provides free, professional relief childcare for GTA-area mothers with cancer. They care for children 16 and under and provide timely, compassionate support to families throughout treatment, recovery, palliative care and bereavement.
We were able to sit down with some of the mother’s involved in this program and have a very candid discussion surrounding their diagnosis, the impact it had on them and their families and how the Nanny Angel Network gave them support.
How old were your children when you first learned of your diagnosis?
Mom 1: “Three children aged 2, 9 and 15 years old.”
Mom 2: “Two children aged 4.5-year-old and 2.5 years old.”
Mom 3: “Two children aged 1 year and 18 months old.”
Mom 4: “Two children aged 2.5 years and 9 months old.”
Tell us about when you were diagnosed with cancer? What were some of those first feelings you experienced?
Mom 3: “It was June 19th, 2015. I was getting an endoscope and colonoscopy done at the same time to figure out fast weight loss and pain in tailbone. I was with my closest friend Heather. I was told I had an 8cm mass in my rectum. I knew that if caught early enough it is very highly curable. Both the doctor and Heather looked at me. My mom died due to complications from breast cancer when I was 17 years old. I have lived with cancer in the family. NOW WAS MY TURN.”
Mom 2: “I was diagnosed on March 13, 2015. It was a few weeks before my 34th birthday. I was devastated about being diagnosed but more so, I was worried for my kids.”
How did they (your children) understand your illness?
Mom 1: “My son was very nervous about it. My daughter was very caring, but she did not understand.”
Mom 4: “I don’t think they do understand since they are both so young.”
Mom 2: “My daughter understood that I had a boo-boo in my breast and that the doctors were going to help me feel better. She understood that my hair fell out and that I wore a wig. They understood that as my son says my “boobs were cut off” by the doctors.”
What kind of questions did your children ask?
Mom 4: “My two-year-old will ask about Mommy’s boo boo “does it hurt” referring to my scar from surgery.”
Mom 2: “My son is curious about what tool they used for my surgery. Even though I told him it was a special tool he always asks if it was a screw driver or a wrench. They often asked if I was feeling ok after chemotherapy."
What support did you have at home? Or what support were you missing prior to connecting with NAN?
Mom 1: “I had no support. I used to walk down the halls asking residents to watch my kids. Then I heard about NAN and was able to get help from Lucy.”
Mom 2: “My mom took the year off work to help me out and my kids which was amazing. My husband was a great help too dealing with a lot of the parenting/household jobs.”
Mom 3: “I had support from family and friends. NAN helped with extra hands for Zachory.”
Mom 4: “I have my mother helping me out, but the children are so young and require so much attention. It has been a lot to handle, especially with the numerous medical appointments and chemo related fatigue etc.”
How has your particular “nanny angel” impacted or supported your children? Any specific memories?
Mom 3: “Fiona's impact on Zachory has been amazing to watch. He plays and learns, and he has blossomed. Fiona has taught me how Zachory communicates without saying a word. Since connecting with NAN and Fiona I have felt like I won the lottery. I learn so much and when she takes pictures and video of their outings. It fills my heart to see him explore and learn about the world.”
Mom 4: “My son absolutely adores our nanny angel, Verna. He looks forward to spending time with her and I know he enjoys the one on one attention that she can give him. Verna gave Amare a photo book for Christmas. It had pictures of Amare. I was particularly touched because since my diagnosis I hadn't been taking regular pictures of either of my children.”
Mom 1: “Lucy was a perfect match for my family. She was caring and understanding, and I was able to rest or run errands without worrying about the children.”
Mom 2: “Our routines were changed when I got diagnosed. My husband and I use to split up on Saturday mornings taking the kids to different programs. NAN stepped in and helped with my sons care Saturday mornings. Evangeline and Annie-May created the most beautiful routine with my son. They would go to the library for a program, then depending on the weather to the park and then get my son a burger from Harveys.”
Any advice you can share with other mother’s newly diagnosed with cancer?
Mom 2: “Take one day at a time. As hard as that is to do, it helps with all of the overwhelming feelings that come along with a cancer diagnosis. Accept help! I’m a stubborn person who loves to do things for myself but letting go and giving up parts of children’s care, household chores etc, make it easier to focus on yourself.”
Mom 3: “Any new moms out there I would say first BREATHE there is HELP. NAN in the support you need, and your kids will THRIVE. I can't imagine a time when Fiona won’t be a part of our lives. NAN is an AMAZING charity. They need to be national. There is so much of a demand.”
Mom 4: “Don’t be afraid to ask for help/support from your network of family and friends (let them know what kind of help you may need). Utilize the abundance of services that can offer support. Remember that support can come in such a variety of ways. Instead of "Googling”, reach out to organizations that can help you sift through the information related to your case and/or bring questions to your doctor. I compartmentalized my treatment and focused on one part at a time to not feel overwhelmed by all the new information related to my condition/treatment. For example, I didn’t ask questions about radiation until I had finished with chemo.”
Curl Keeper is donating $1.00 from every sized bottle of Curl Keeper® Tweek™ to the Nanny Angel Network for the month of October. Visit our Giving Back page to read the full press release and see social media influencer video’s on how to use Curl Keeper® Tweek™. If you would like to learn more about the Nanny Angel Network and you live in the Toronto or GTA and would like to volunteer please click here.To learn how to care for post-chemotherapy curls, Jonathan Torch, lead stylist at the Curly Hair Institute and creator of Curly Hair Solutions®/Curl Keeper® offers professional insight in his article Chemo Curls.