When Audrey Guth, 59, was treated for breast cancer five years ago, she was shocked at how many young breast cancer patients had babies and toddlers sitting on their laps while waiting for appointments because the patients had no access to child care. After her treatments ended, the Toronto-based mother decided to do something about it by starting a foundation, called the Nanny Angel Network, that provides free nanny care to young mothers with cancer.
“Studies have shown that mothers choose their children first over their own medical care and treatment,” Guth said. “If their child is sick and there’s no one to baby-sit, they cancel their appointments.”
More than 400 Toronto-area families have benefited since the service started in 2010, and Guth was recently featured as a community “hero” on CNN.
“We don’t just send baby sitters,” said Guth, who also runs a professional nanny agency. “We require two years of professional child-care experience and provide training on how to deal with children who ask, is my mom going to die?”
Her cadre of current volunteers includes retired teachers and nurses as well as professional nannies who come with a bag full of toys. They usually serve one family at a time coming at least once a week for up to five hours to enable mothers undergoing cancer treatment the ability to go to doctors’ appointments, run errands, or take a much-needed nap.
“At this point, we’re only serving mothers with cancer, not fathers or parents with sick children, though they’re on our radar if we get more funding,” Guth said. The service is only available in Toronto, but Guth said she expects to develop a franchise that can expand into other cities including Boston within the next year.
In the meantime, parents going through cancer treatments in this area can get access to relatively inexpensive child care, at least while they attend doctor’s appointments and get medical treatments.
Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s back-up childcare center provides day care for children up to age 12 for $6 an hour to any patients with medical appointments at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Faulkner Hospital, or Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Massachusetts General Hospital also offers this service.
Real people with real problems often find the best ways to solve them in their community. Have you come across practical solutions for common health dilemmas? We’d like to hear from you.