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NAN offers support to moms with cancer despite isolation

TORONTO — Single mom Kathy Liu has been relying on the free services offered by the Nanny Angel Network ever since her cancer diagnosis last summer.

“Picking up Kaiyan from the daycare and school, trying to comfort Kaiyan and talk to him about mama’s cancer,” Liu told CTV News Toronto.

Nursing student Anna Millington has been spending time with nine-year-old Kaiyan, four hours, once a week. But now with COVID-19, she’s changed her routine. She checks in with him, often texting, several times a week. They Facetime with each other and play card games or board games.

Liu had finished her radiation and chemotherapy treatments the week before provincial isolation measures were brought in. But Liu and Millington had already decided to stop the in-home visits because of Liu’s weakened immune system.

Now Liu doesn’t venture out at all — not even to get groceries. The Nanny Angel Network (now Nankind) takes care of meals for her and Kaiyan. They’ve set up a partnership with Toronto catering company Toben Food By Design to make fresh meals for Nanny Angel clients. The company says it was prepared to cater for Nanny Angel Network’s upcoming gala but since that was called off, the chefs are pitching in, in another way.

The organization has also been creating age-appropriate kits to give the kids of clients a creative outlet. For example, Kaiyan got a slime-making kit. It keeps the children busy, but Millington says it also offers them “some psychosocial support”.

“I think I especially with kids like Kaiyan, they can end up talking a little bit more when they’re doing something active rather than just sitting and trying to talk about your feelings,” she says.

Liu says the stress of isolation is also getting to her. She was feeling good at the end of her radiation but she fears emotional pressures are bringing on some aches and pains.

“From the mind, anxiety – and from my son as well.” Liu says. I’m a single mom with limited resources and then I can’t go out. It actually causes more mental issues.”

That’s why, even if she doesn’t see her Nanny Angel volunteer in person right now, she’s grateful for all their help.

“When I was in the deepest hole of the valley, they were there to lift me up.” she says emotionally.

And Kaiyan too has a message for his friend Anna.

“I miss you and I wish we could have more time to play together”.

To watch the full story, head to CTV News here.

Pauline Chan, Health Video Journalist, CTV News Toronto