De­sign for life Cen­tre of­fer­ing sanc­tu­ary from can­cer bat­tles

Oc­to­ber is Breast Can­cer Aware­ness Month. Sue Smith vis­ited Mag­gie’s, a drop-in cen­tre for peo­ple liv­ing with can­cer which pro­vides emo­tional and prac­ti­cal as­sis­tance as well as friend­ship

Gloucestershire Echo - - NEWS -

THE first sound walk­ing through the door at Mag­gie’s in Chel­tenham is peals of laugh­ter as young women hug cof­fee cups, catch­ing up with a chat be­fore a Tai Chi ses­sion.

Some have been to hell and come out the other side while oth­ers are fight­ing their own per­sonal bat­tles.

They have all ex­pe­ri­enced can­cer in some form or an­other, but this is not a place to be mor­bid or dwell on rogue cards they have been dealt in life.

Now in its eighth year in the town, Mag­gie’s of­fers a respite from end­less chemo­ther­apy, ra­dio­ther­apy, doc­tors’ ap­point­ments and hos­pi­tal gowns.

Here they can for­get, at least for a while, they are all part of a club no­body wanted to join.

There are art cour­ses, Nordic walk­ing, yoga, Pi­lates, writ­ing cour­ses and a choir to join – or just a quiet cor­ner to read and shut out the rest of the world.

Help is hand from psy­chi­a­trists, psy­chol­o­gists and clin­i­cal spe­cial­ist nurses of­fer­ing emo­tional sup­port, as well as peo­ple qual­i­fied to give prac­ti­cal ad­vice on ben­e­fits and wills and es­tate plan­ning.

Cen­tre head Sally Hayes has of­fered to visit job cen­tres to help staff un­der­stand the fi­nan­cial sup­port can­cer pa­tients need.

She said: “It’s a mine­field and money wor­ries are the last thing peo­ple need to be deal­ing with when they have been di­ag­nosed.

“They don’t want to be jump­ing through hoops for money they are en­ti­tled to, even when they have the en­ergy to do so at the be­gin­ning.

“We have to some­times give out food vouch­ers here while peo­ple weave their way through the bureau­cracy.”

Work­shops in­clude mind­ful­ness, man­ag­ing stress, sleep de­pri­va­tion, nu­tri­tion and hair loss as well as a club run by men for men liv­ing with or sup­port­ing some­one with can­cer.

Sally adds: “We used to get around 800-1,000 peo­ple a month at the cen­tre, we are now see­ing more like 1,600.

“And we are do­ing a lot more with fam­i­lies, in­clud­ing grand­par­ents who are play­ing such a sig­nif­i­cant part in chil­dren’s lives th­ese days.”

The first Mag­gie’s cen­tre was opened in Scot­land 22 years ago and there are now 22 cen­tres from Ed­in­burgh to Hong Kong, with three more planned for this year.

Fund­ing has been se­cured for a mini ver­sion of Mag­gie’s in Cole­ford at the Main Place, above the li­brary on the first and third Tues­day of ev­ery month for the next year. The first ses­sion was held on Oc­to­ber 1.

“It’s the first time Mag­gie’s has done any­thing out­side its pur­pose-built build­ing but we were aware there was a need for a group in the For­est and we have seen 100 peo­ple through the doors in just three weeks,” says Sally.

The cen­tres are the legacy of Mar­garet Keswick Jencks, who ter­mi­nally ill with can­cer in 1992 found her­self sit­ting in a win­dow­less cor­ri­dor of a hos­pi­tal, dread­ing the prog­no­sis she was about to get that can­cer had re­turned.

She wrote that pa­tients were ‘left to wilt un­der the des­ic­cat­ing glare of flu­o­res­cent lights.’

If ar­chi­tec­ture could de­moralise pa­tients, she rea­soned, could it not con­trib­ute to men­tal en­er­va­tion and prove to be restora­tive?

With her hus­band Charles, an ar­chi­tec­tural his­to­rian and the­o­rist, her vi­sion was to pro­vide free, global care through great ar­chi­tec­ture.

The projects have at­tracted cel­e­brated ar­chi­tects and the cen­tres are sign­posted by all on­col­ogy staff at hos­pi­tals when peo­ple are re­ferred for treat­ment for their can­cer.

For Jane Robin­son, from Charl­ton Kings, a 42-year-old mum with a fouryear-old son, Mag­gie’s was a life­line when she was di­ag­nosed with Stage 2 pre-menopausal breast can­cer ear­lier this year.

She said: “I think I was in de­nial at first, it is so hard when you first find out, you don’t know how to tell peo­ple or how to talk about it,.

“I walked into Mag­gie’s for the first time the day be­fore my mas­tec­tomy and now I come ev­ery cou­ple of weeks.

“Ev­ery­one is al­ways very cheery and it’s a lovely, re­laxed en­vi­ron­ment where we are all go­ing through the same ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Carly Ap­pleby, 39, from Cirences­ter, strug­gled for an­swers when she found a small, hard lump in her breast.

“It took me six months to get some­one to take me se­ri­ously and by then I had Stage 3 hor­monal breast can­cer. I kept go­ing back be­cause I knew some­thing was wrong,” she says

The mum of a fiveyear-old daugh­ter, she fin­ished her treat­ment in June when she found the chemo­ther­apy had wiped out the can­cer but she will have to take the pre- ven­ta­tive drug Tamox­ifen for the next 10 years.

“I came to Mag­gie’s as soon as I was di­ag­nosed. I was in shock. I was only 37 and had never given a thought to my own mor­tal­ity,” she says.

“It can be a very lonely time sit­ting in that on­col­ogy unit. Com­ing to Mag­gie’s has been ab­so­lutely in­cred­i­ble for me.

“There were times when I was so low and I found it par­tic­u­larly hard to cope with los­ing my hair.

“And even now that I have been told there is no ev­i­dence of the dis­ease [pa­tients are no longer put in re­mis­sion] I still come to the cen­tre.”

Ginny Ring, 70, from Glouces­ter says Mag­gie’s has been a life­saver.

Hav­ing had treat­ment for breast can­cer 20 years ago, the can­cer re­turned to the other breast 15 years later.

It has now spread to her bones, her spine and her shoul­der and neck and she was one of the un­lucky one in a hun­dred to con­tract Os­teonecro­sis of the jaw which can oc­cur as a re­sult of the medicines used to treat can­cer, and causes tooth loss.

“Mag­gie’s feels like a sec­ond home to me. It’s a place I can come to and switch off my wor­ries,” says Ginny whose hus­band Ron, her carer, died in Fe­bru­ary.

“It has been my saviour. I have had a lot of sad­ness and at times I was in a very dark tun­nel, but there has been a lot of joy too and I have made some good friends here who have helped me through.”

Ginny sings in the choir at Mag­gie’s and has learned to play the ukulele.

“I orig­i­nally didn’t want to come here but my hus­band gen­tly pushed me out of the car and it was the best thing that could have hap­pened for me,” says Ginny.

With £480,000 a year needed to fund a Mag­gie’s cen­tre there are on­go­ing fundrais­ing events.

The char­ity re­ceives money from the Post­code Lot­tery, a Pedal for Mag­gie’s bike ride takes place ev­ery year and it ben­e­fits from the Beards Di­a­mond Rush in Chel­tenham. There will be a Christ­mas Fair at Dou­ble Tree by Hilton at Charl­ton Kings, on Satur­day, Novem­ber 17 from 11am-3pm and Car­ols by Can­dle­light at Christ

Sally Hayes

A Tai Chi Class at Mag­gie’s in Chel­tenham and, be­low, a me­mory jar Pic­tures: Mark Watkins

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.