“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.” ~Dalai Lama
In 2008, Audrey Guth, mother and president of Diamond Personnel, a nanny placement agency in Toronto Canada, arrived at the hospital for breast cancer chemotherapy. She saw mothers receiving chemotherapy infusions holding “really young children …on their laps.”
Growing Up Fast
Memories neglected for years came rushing back. When Audrey was 9, she “sat for hours, unsupervised in a waiting room surrounded by …cancer patients…” She accompanied her 34-year old father to Sloan Kettering Hospital where he received treatment for renal cancer. “I remember tubes, baldheads, emaciated bodies…a scary and haunting place to take a young child, but… my mother had no choice. She had three even younger children to look after at home…So for …3 years, I was my father’s only companion during his treatment…and I had to gr[o]w up very, very fast.”
Childcare and Cancer Treatment
Years later, these memories moved her to examine childcare and chemotherapy. She found that little had changed since her girlhood. Few hospitals or healthcare centers provided childcare. Since childcare was too expensive for families dealing with medical bills; some moms even missed cancer treatments and appointments. “These women couldn’t dream of having nannies and yet, they were the ones that needed them the most,” she said in a 2014 CNN Hero interview.
An Award Winning Idea: Nanny Angel Network
With her expertise in nanny placement, Audrey set out to make a difference. She started the Nanny Angel Network (NAN) that same year. Since 2010, NAN has provided 5,568 hours of services and 1,392 visits to 377 children.
Although this is a volunteer organization, these are no ordinary volunteers. She’s assembled volunteers who are teachers, nannies, nurses, and early childhood educators. Many are cancer survivors.
When Audrey was 12, her father died. “At that time, no one talked to children about cancer. We were left alone with our grief and …those frightening recollections of hospitals and illness found a permanent hiding place in my mind.” For this reason, Nanny Angels receive specialized training in understanding bereavement and grief. “These are children dealing with loss. The loss of a healthy mother,” Ashley Ashbee, NAN’s social media manager explained. The training also includes basics about cancer treatment and recovery and about the psychological and emotional toll that cancer has on families.
Nanny Angel Network Provides Free Childcare For Cancer Patients
Providing families in crisis sensitivity, respect and understanding is what NAN is all about. The service is free to patients in treatment and available to those who are in need of relief for palliative care or bereavement. Nannies come to the house in pink uniforms with big green “Mary Poppins” bags filled with activities and fun.
As Audrey stated in her CNN Hero interview, “Mothers who are diagnosed with cancer are caregivers who suddenly find themselves in need of care… Our program allows mothers the freedom to take a rest because that’s what they need the most to get better. What we do won’t take away their illness but it will certainly make their journey a lot easier.”