The first Maggie’s Centre was set up in Edinburgh by Maggie Keswick Jencks the co-founder, alongside Charles Jencks. Maggie was a writer, landscape designer, painter and a mother of two. She died of cancer in July 1995.
Andy with a client
Andy Anderson, Centre Head of Maggie’s Edinburgh told me more about the ethos of the centre. ‘Maggie’s Centres are for anyone affected by cancer. They are places where people are welcome whenever they need us – from just being diagnosed; early stage; undergoing treatment; in recovery, to post-treatment; recurrence; end of life or in bereavement.
'We offer a combination of emotional and practical help. Everything from ‘feel better ’ sessions to benefits advice. We have a programme of events and sessions running daily.'
'We also welcome family and friends, as they are often deeply affected by cancer too. We know that those who love and look after someone with cancer can feel just as frightened, vulnerable and uncertain. 40% of the people who come to see us are family members.
'This is a safe space for them to come and talk about whatever they want. We try to help them get a sense of control back into their life, and work on their agenda, not ours.
‘I was trained as a cancer nurse and have been at Maggie’s Centre Edinburgh since 2000. We have a mix of paid staff including psychologists, a Benefits advisor and support specialists along with volunteer support for up to 80-90 people per day. It’s a place to come and sit and enjoy the space.
'The Centre was designed with light and bright colours and, although it’s near the Western General Hospital, it’s more a home than a clinical space. We don’t treat people, so we can’t help with diagnosis but we enhance their wellbeing and feeling of hope, and this is what Maggies is all about.’
For at least six months I had been suffering increasingly extreme bowel pains, along with various other symptoms (which later I discovered covered all six main symptoms listed on the McMillians web site for bowel cancer).
Further tests had to be carried out and several days later I discovered it was a cancerous tumour. A further regime of treatment was discussed over a few weeks.
In September the same year I had another operation which lasted 10 hours. I then had six months of chemotherapy, both by infusion and oral tablets. When I went for the results of what was hoped to be my "all clear" scan I was told I had what looked like a new small 'tumour' in my right lung. I had this operation on 20th December 2012 where a relatively small part of my lung was removed, along with the offending 'growth'.
Maggie’s has been, and continues to be a life saver for me (and my partner) - potentially literally. I simply cannot even imagine how I could have coped at all, or my partner, Nikki, without the endless, friendly, informative, inspiring, life changing support of the team at Maggie’s.
It was my (ex) mother in law who told me of Maggies and encouraged myself and Nikki to visit, which we did. I still vividly remember walking through their door in 2011 with Nikki at my side, totally racked with nerves. Once I had entered the building I started to feel calmer and after immediately being greeted and made welcome I was comfortable. A short time later I had my first, of what has become regular and numerous, 'chats' with Andy.
To this day I am still amazed at his, as well as the other staff and volunteers, warmth and undivided attention, as does everyone that attends. Also the moment I walk through the doors, as I did with Nikki so long ago, I still get the same feeling of calmness and relief. I have called it my second home.
Although I do not attend the centre as much as some people, it has made it possible for myself and Nikki to cope, manage and even see a better side to life.
One of the many groups that Maggies offers is Art Therapy which has helped me personally more than I could articulate. Never having ever done any art - apart from those few mandatory wasteful lessons back in school days- I felt so desperate to try and find some way to release the huge amount of mayhem and pressure in my head I decided to join the group.
Art now is a big hobby of mine that just keeps me going. It gives me great space & calmness that allows colours and shapes to flow freely without real thought. One of many things that Maggies has enabled me to find how to cope.
While I think it will be many years (if ever!), that I will feel truly free of cancer. Maggie’s has made it possible to live, and improve my outlook on life, while also giving such large and varied support that's helped myself, and Nikki cope.
There are now Maggie’s Centres throughout the UK and overseas. They rely on fundraising to help them keep going.
If you would like to find out more about the Maggie’s Centres or how to help with the many fundraising opportunities then follow the link to www.maggiescentres.org.
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